Washington International Law Journal


Joon H. Kim


The South Korean government designated three new Free Economic Zones in an effort to become the financial and logistical hub of Northeast Asia. One of these zones, the Incheon Free Economic Zone (“IFEZ”), will encompass 209 square kilometers of completely new development on reclaimed land and is said to be the biggest real estate development project currently in the world. China started using economic zones much earlier in history and although China experienced economic benefits, it also experienced severe environmental degradation in its highly successful special economic zones. Similarly tremendous economic growth will result from the influx of foreign direct investment into IFEZ, which is likely to result in some environmental harm. This Comment argues that with such high levels of concentrated development, the existing South Korean environmental regulatory system will not to be able to protect the natural environment within the IFEZ. Although many Korean environmental regulations were modeled after proven Western regulations, the Korean regulatory regime requires improvements. The current Korean environmental regulatory system is inadequate because of poor enforcement, narrow definitions of judicial standing and justiciability for purposes of judicial review, inadequate judicial remedies, and inadequate environmental laws. Comparison with U.S. environmental regulations provides evidence that South Korean environmental regulations lack mechanisms to adequately protect South Korea’s natural resources. This comparison also shows some areas of the Korean environmental regulatory system that require change. Without government effort to enhance the effectiveness of existing regulations, South Korea will likely face the grave environmental degradation that China experienced. South Korea should make necessary changes to create a better regulatory system.

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