Method Development for the Integrated Impact Assessment in Korea: A Case Study for the Construction of Great Korean Waterway

Mega-project has great impact on the society as a whole. With a rapid transition toward industrialization, Korea has launched a series of mega-projects so far, including the construction of highway between Seoul and Pusan, the railroad construction for the KTX (Korea Train Express), the Saemangeum land reclamation project, and etc.

Mega-projects cause great public concern over the environment, too. Public complaint against the mega-project was minimal until the ‘70s due to the traditional Confucian philosophy inherent to the Korean people - subordination. However, the conflict between development and environmental conservation became hard to overcome as the president of Korea announced his intention for the construction of Great Korean Waterway (GKW). Without any detailed construction plan, developers and land owners along the planned construction site are in favor of the project while many environmental scientists and NGOs are against the plan.

Korea has three principal mechanisms on impact assessment (IA): Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Prior Environmental Review System (PERS), and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Nonetheless, Assessment practices seem to follow the regulatory manuals routinely without considering ‘scoping’ of issues. Consequently, as the intention of waterway construction seems explicit in the current political environment without social compromise, it is going to be very hard to manage different interests through the current process. Thus we need a more comprehensive and integrated approach than the current ROK regulatory guidelines permit – the integrated approach towards impact assessment (IA). This study is to develop a framework for the integrated IA that encompasses impacts on the socio-economic sector, disaster management, traffic sector, and social conflict in general.

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