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Dioxin Emission Generated from Solid Waste Incineration in Korea
In 1997, Korea's Ministry of Environment (MOE) announced test results of dioxin emissions from eleven municipal waste incinerators (MWI’s) across the country. Excessive dioxin emissions from ten incinerators alarmed Korean citizens, causing them to voice their concerns about the incineration policy of Korea's waste management and the toxic effects of dioxin emissions. For the first time in Korea, the dioxin problems brought about real national concern about environmental issues.

Nevertheless, the ROKG decided to push forward its policy of incineration and announced that it would support municipalities with approximately $ 1.6 billion to construct 43 more MWI’s by 2001. The government intends to expand the share of incineration of municipal solid waste treatment to 20 percent by 2001 from 4 percent of the total in 1996. The government's plan to build new MWI’s was coupled with the promise to the public that standard for dioxin emission in new MWI’s would reach the level of other industrialized countries or 0.1 TEQ ng/m3 from that time on.

Even with public dissatisfaction regarding the government's incineration policy to handle municipal waste, the ROKG had little choice but to maintain its stance because of limited landfill space. With its population approaching 46 million and its land area of merely 99,268 Km2, Korea has had inherent problems in managing solid waste. To control the increasing solid waste problem, the government changed its policy from landfill to incineration in 1997.

The government's investment in MWI’s has increased and amounted to 213 million in 1996. To actively support the incineration policy, MOE spent 220 million in 1997 and 207 million in 1998 for solid waste management including construction of incinerators. It also plans to spend 197 million by 1999 and invest additional funds totaling 805 million by 2002.

However, with Korea's economic turbulence and financial crunch which started late in 1997, progress on environmental projects began to slow down in 1998 as indicated above. Existing government projects were affected due to drastic won devaluation and budget cuts. New projects underwent stringent review to assess their importance, necessity and cost, and adjusted realistically to prevent budget waste. Many companies supplying small-and-medium scale incinerators went bankrupt. These problems have been forcing the government, industry, and the public to push for well-planned and effective management of solid waste.

As of 1998, there were 13,841 waste incinerators operating in Korea. However, 13,146 incinerators (95%) of the total are small-scale waste incinerators with treatment capacity of less than 100 kilograms per hour. Only 93 incinerators (0.6%) have a capacity of over 50 tons per day but these large-scale waste incinerators treat 2,490,000 tons per year which account for 76.7 percent out of 3,247,000 tons, the total volume of waste incinerated in Korea. The small-scale waste incinerators treat 282,000 tons, only 8.7 percent of the total, and the small-and-medium-scale waste incinerators do 475,000 tons, 14.6 percent of the total.

In 1998, MOE announced test results of dioxin emissions from all ten MWI’s operating across the country. The Sung-Nam MWI using fluidized-bed type technology had been shut down due to excessive dioxin emission beyond management control. Most of the ten MWI’s met the emission standard of 0.5 TEQ ng/m3 for an existing facility. Only Choong-Dong and Sung-Suh MWI’s exceeded the dioxin emission standard, recording 4.548 TEQ ng/m3 and 1.942 TEQ ng/m3, respectively. With the government's efforts and people's concern, there were signs that the dioxin problem had stabilized.

However, there is still the problem that there are no regulations or guidelines concerning air pollution problems including dioxin emission from small and small-and-medium scale waste incinerators, which treat 23.3 percent of total wastes being incinerated in Korea. As these incinerators are not subject to the Air Quality Preservation Act, there are no means to prevent pollution problems. They are currently blamed as the main culprits of dioxin emissions. Some critics claim that these small and small-and-medium scale incinerators are discharging more than 90 percent of dioxin emissions in Korea. Even the government has not tried to test air pollution problems or establish standards equivalent to those for MWI’s. Although MWI’s are strictly regulated, they are still burning massive waste in the open air.

In response to these problems, the government plans to ban the installation of incinerators under a waste-treating capacity of 25 kilograms per hour from August 1999. It also plans to put all waste incinerators under its supervision beginning in October of this year.

Comment: Korea's market for MWI’s is a major best prospect for the environmental sector. However, European and Japanese firms have almost evenly shared this market and have great potential to expand in the future. As to efficiency and safety, Korean buyers consider European technology to be superior.
With the start of the government's more strict regulation and enforcement, possible future opportunities associated with waste incineration for U.S. environmental exporters exist in the field of control of dioxin emissions and other hazardous air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOC).

CS Korea advises U.S. environmental firms interested in the Korean market to utilize the programs and services of the Commercial Service Korea/U.S.-Asia Environmental Partnership (U.S.-AEP)/Korea to investigate potential opportunities. The following contacts may be useful to U.S. companies in obtaining further information and other necessary assistance:

Mr. LEE Chi-Sun, Director
Rm 404, Leema Bldg., 146-1 Soosong-Dong,
Chongro-Ku, Seoul 110-140, Korea
Phone: 82-2-734-6558/737-5492
Fax: 82-2-734-6559
E-mail: chi.sun.lee@mail.doc.gov

Mr. JUNG Jin-Sung, Director General
International Cooperation
Ministry of Environment
1 Choongang-Dong, Kwacheon City,
Kyungki-Do, Korea
Phone: 82-2-504-9238
Fax: 82-2-504-9206

Mr. Choi Yong-Chul, Director
Waste Facility Division
1 Choongang-Dong, Kwacheon City,
Kyungki-Do, Korea
Phone: 82-2-504-9261
Fax: 82-2-504-502-4386

Mr. CHO Il-Sung, Secretary General
Korea Pollution Control Association
4th Fl., Pung Jeon Bldg., 11-3 Jeong-Dong,
Chung-Ku, Seoul 100-120, Korea
Phone: 82-2-774-0123
Fax: 82-2-775-7043

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