“Six Months After Korea’s West Coast Oil Spill” (article translated by Emanuel Pastreich)

I translated this article about the Taean oil spill on behalf of a friend who works at Eco-Horizon Institute (Saengtae Jipyeong) as part of my efforts on the critical issue of what to do in the aftermath of this ecological disaster.

The Taean spill blends together in my mind with Hurricane Katherina, the Deep Horizon oil spill and the Fukushima disaster. All are examples of ecological disasters, the biggest security challenge we face today. I must say that most of the security budget we spend is not much use for responding to these terrible threats, and that their frequency seems to be increasing.

Six Months After Korea’s West Coast Oil Spill – Need exists for new effort to stave off a social and ecological disaster

August 8, 2008
By Seung-hwa Lee
(translated by Emanuel Pastreich)

A horrific collision between a crane and an oil tanker off the coast of Korea’s Taean Peninsula last December resulted in over 10,000 tons of crude oil being dumped into ocean just off the coast of one of Asia’s most important marine preserves. The striking coastline where pristine waves crashed on rugged rocks was transformed into a sea of oozing black goop.

The animals and plants of the coast were not the only ones devastated. The residents of Taean have found themselves in a life and death struggle for economic and psychological survival. A dark shadow hangs over their lives and has driven some to despair.

Now that the summer season has returned, there is much talk in the Korean media about the reopening of the beaches and the miracle of the Taean recovery. After all, when over a million people from all over Korea came to help clean the coast of oil in the months after the spill many predicted a quick return to normal. But although the beaches may appear clean, traces of oil can still be found.

The roads once packed with tourists during the summer have little traffic. And the generations of families whose livelihood depended on fishing or tourism wonder what they should do. They watch the bills pile up, getting into unpleasant fights about possible compensation money.


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