Posted December. 22, 2005 03:02,
The High Court has given the green light to the Saemangeum Reclamation project.
The Seoul District High Court (Senior judge: Gu Uk-seo) overruled a lower court ruling on Wednesday, rejecting the appeal brought against the minister of agriculture and forestry by 3,539 Jeonbuk Province residents and other environmental groups calling for the cancellation of the project.
The ruling read: In the process of implementing the project, some unexpected problems surfaced, including water pollution. However, those problems cannot justify the cancellation of the project itself.
Shortly after the ruling was made, the plaintiffs made clear their intention to appeal to the Supreme Court, leaving the high court to make the final decision.
The court said, The lower court accepted the plaintiffs request that the reclamation license for publicly-owned territory, such as tidelands, should be retracted or changed. But this court overruled the lower courts decision and rejected all the other appeals made by the plaintiffs.
As for the appeal to nullify the business permit for the project and the reclamation license for publicly-owned territory, the court explained, It is true that the projects environment impact study was not sufficient, but the court cannot see that as constituting illegality. Also, it is hard to accept the plaintiffs arguments against the project for its economic inefficiency.
Before making its ruling, the court explained, It took three and a half years for the lower courts ruling and 10 months for the higher courts ruling. Now its time to make a final decision. The court acknowledges that it makes a legal decision, but that it doesnt have the right to decide which direction the project should take (environment or development).
Immediately after the ruling, the ministry of agriculture and forestry stated that a collaborative system with environmental groups will be formed to address possible problems including water pollution caused by the project.
Kim Dal-joong, the head of the ministrys policy promotion and management department, said, The appeal brought by environmental groups to the Supreme Court cannot end the project. The construction of a seawall stretching from Gunsan city, Jeonbuk to the coast off Buan-gun will be completed by the end of next year.
The Federation for Environmental Movement announced in its statement, The courts decision is an anachronism. No one believes that the reclaimed land will be used for farming.