Environmentalists vowed Tuesday to launch a legal battle against the government over its recent decision to allow the construction of a cable car in one of the country’s most preserved national parks.
Several environmental groups, including Green Korea United, said they would seek revocation against the government’s approval for the cable car project on Mount Seoraksan in Gangwon Province, claiming that the decision is invalid as it didn’t strictly follow the procedural rules.
Last Friday, the ministry’s national park committee decided by a vote to allow the construction of a 3.5-kilometer cable car on Mount Seoraksan in Yangyang County. The cable car project had been mired in controversy over the ecological impacts and economic feasibility.
“Yangyang County’s application for the cable car (that was submitted to the ministry) didn’t cover the ecological values of Mount Seoraksan, violating the ministry’s guidelines,” they said.
Civic groups also claimed that the majority of the committee was unfairly composed of public servants who have likely sided with the ministry.
They said they would request the Board of Audit and Inspection to examine the procedure followed for the project.
They also urged lawmakers to carry out a parliamentary probe into the ministry’s decision and to pass the national park protection law that has been pending at the National Assembly. The law aims at prohibiting the installation of facilities in government-designated nature preservation districts.
Yangyang residents and the municipal government have argued that the cable car will not only boost the local economy by bringing over 100 billion won ($85 million) of revenue, but also offer more diverse travel routes for mountain visitors, especially for the elderly and disabled.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, have expressed ecological concerns, claiming that the proposed cable car route covers a natural habitat for a number of endangered species, especially an endangered type of mountain goat.
Acknowledging the opposition, the ministry ordered the county office to fulfill seven preconditions ahead of starting the project. It includes strengthening safety rules and measures to support endangered species, mapping out facility monitoring and donating partial revenue to a forest protection fund.
The project will go ahead once the environment minister gives the final approval. The cable car is scheduled to start running from February 2018 when the PyeongChang Winter Olympics are set to be held.
By Lee Hyun-jeong (firstname.lastname@example.org)