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Ambassador report

Ambassador report

[Ambassador report] Soil Pollution in South Korea

by Soyeon Cho | 06-05-2019 02:29 Comments 6 Comments recommendations 2 recommendations



In my previous reports, I discussed issues such as air pollution and water pollution around the world and in South Korea. Yet another global issue taking place in South Korea is soil pollution. Defined as the “presence of toxic chemicals (pollutants or contaminants) in soil, in high enough concentrations to pose a risk to human health and/or the ecosystem” (EPC), soil pollution can not only affect the organisms that directly absorb nutrients from the polluted soil but also the surrounding resources in the soil as well as the consumers of the affected organisms. 

Some examples of common pollutants are metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, copper, cadmium, and zinc. Also known as heavy metals, these pollutants can also cause water pollution, which end up in the water supplies such as rivers and lakes that provide biodiversity and are used for agriculture and consumption. In addition to the heavy metals, organic compounds from slurry and manure and synthetic compounds from industrial waste can also be present. 

Natural phenomena such as acid rain are also causes of soil pollution around the world in terms of changing the acidity of the soil. For example, acid rain contains acids like carbonate, causing the soil pH to decrease and become more acidic. In these conditions, existing metals and inorganic compounds in the soil such as aluminum, copper, lead, and calcium are leached out into the environment. These can be ingested by plants and other species that absorb nutrients from the soil, eventually traveling up the food chain into humans. 

In the case of South Korea, although the data provided by the Ministry of Environment shows that levels of metals like cadmium and lead have decreased in general (Statistics Korea), small proportions of the land surveyed have been constantly determined as having potentially dangerous levels of soil contaminants, showing that there is still work to be done. 

Furthermore, South Korea has a variety of crops that people harvest in different parts of the country, ranging from rice to vegetables and fruits such as potatoes and apples. Although South Korea’s rapid development over the past few decades has primary developed secondary and tertiary industries in society rather than primary industries, agriculture is still an important part of South Korea and its people. Therefore, soil pollution (especially involving the use of pesticides in farms) is an issue around the world and in South Korea that we need to address. 

As an example, the Soil Environment Conservation Act was first implemented on 1995, setting policies for monitoring the extent of soil pollution in different provinces (Ministry of Environment). However, since the efforts to address soil pollution have been more on the recent side, South Korea would need stricter regulations about monitoring and preventing soil pollution as well as more awareness about this issue, which seems to be less prominent in the South Korean media (compared to other issues like air pollution). Soil pollution can also harm our health and our environment — it is just that we need to know about this problem.


Country Report of Korea (ROK): Soil and Groundwater. Ministry of Environment, 2017.

“Non-Degradable Waste.” EMedicalPrep, Emedicalprep.com, www.emedicalprep.com/wp-content/uploads/non-degradable-waste.jpg.

“Soil Pollution Statistics - MInistry of Environment.” e-Country Index, Statistics Korea, 10 Jan. 2019, www.index.go.kr/potal/main/EachDtlPageDetail.do?idx_cd=2790.

“What Is Soil Pollution?.” Environmental Pollution Centers, EPC, 2017, www.environmentalpollutioncenters.org/soil/.

Non-degradable waste contributing to soil pollution

6 Comments

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Hello Soyeon

    Thank you for your report about soil pollution in south korea

    Green Cheers from Nepal :)
    Keep writing great reports.
    We are eager to read more reports from you.

    Regards,
    Kushal Naharki

    Posted 17-06-2019 04:14

Asmita Gaire

  • Asmita Gaire says :
    Hello soyeon
    Metals, acid rain, dumping sites, use of fertilizers and chemicals and many other acts are the major cause of soil pollution.
    It is human who are responsible for these all.
    Green cheers.
    Posted 17-05-2019 20:32

Wonhee Mentor

  • Wonhee Mentor says :
    Hello Soyeon!

    Thank you for bringing up this important issue and sharing it with us! I totally agree with you on that soil pollution is not getting enough attention. We should find a way to raise the awareness about soil pollution and urge governments to set up related regulations and monitoring systems. I look forward to your next report.

    Wonhee Mentor
    Posted 09-05-2019 02:03

Louis Mentor

  • Louis Mentor says :
    Hi Soyeon,

    Soil pollution is also an interesting topic to deal with and thank you for your time and efforts for writing this report! Personally I also learned a lot from your report. Although I live in Korea, I did not pay too much attention to soil issues thanks to your report, I have gained some understanding and knowledge in this field. Soil pollution can be disastrous because it may severely influence the agricultural sector. I hope the government can look at this issue and take necessary actions. Great work!

    Louis Mentor
    Posted 08-05-2019 21:22

Eco Generation

  • Eco Generation says :
    Greetings Soyeon,

    Through your article, it seems that the soil preservation in Korea is important - especially since agriculture is still an important economic sector in the country.
    In order to do that, the government should set stricter regulations as you've mentioned.
    Thank you for pointing out this issue and keep up the good work!

    Sincerely,
    Eco Generation
    Posted 08-05-2019 08:33

Nishan kc

  • Nishan kc says :
    Soyeon, Very good report about the burning issue of South Korea!
    Of course, soil pollution is creating lots of problems to human as well as the organisms under soil.
    Posted 06-05-2019 09:43

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