South Korea Cleans Up Big Oil Spill

December 10, 2007

New York Times
Dec. 10, 2007

SEOUL, Dec. 9 — Thousands of fishermen, soldiers and volunteers struggled on Sunday to clean up the worst oil spill in South Korea’s history, an environmental disaster that has blackened once-scenic beaches, coated birds and oysters in sludge and driven away tourists with its stomach-churning stench.

Some 7,000 people have been mobilized to cope with the worst oil spill in South Korea’s history, including these workers in Taean.
But 7,000 people mobilized were too few to fight the oil slick, which has been washing up since Saturday along a 20-kilometer, or 12-mile, shoreline of the nation’s west coast. Strong tides, which dragged the sludge before pushing it ashore again, hampered the cleanup operations of villagers, who also complained of headaches and nausea from the stench.

The oil spill occurred a week after the South Korean port town of Yeosu won the right to host the 2012 Expo. Bidding for the international event, South Korea championed the theme of “the living ocean and coast,” a slogan it hoped would bolster marine environmental awareness in Asia.

The size of the oil spill was about one-fourth that of the 260,000 barrels, or 11 million gallons, leaked into Alaska’s Prince William Sound from the Exxon Valdez in 1989. It was twice as big as South Korea’s worst previous spill, in 1995, which cost 96 billion won, or $101 million, in damages to fishermen and months-long cleanup operations.

(Click Sokor spill for the rest of the story.)


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