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Call for justice over trees ‘poisoned’ near Starbucks drive-thru

In this photo taken on Thursday, a roadside tree in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul is wrapped in black ribbon by a local environmentalist group in protest of the prosecution‘s recent decision not to press charges against a man responsible for the pesticide-induced death of trees. (Korea Federation for Environmental Movements’ Seoul Branch)
In this photo taken on Thursday, a roadside tree in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul is wrapped in black ribbon by a local environmentalist group in protest of the prosecution‘s recent decision not to press charges against a man responsible for the pesticide-induced death of trees. (Korea Federation for Environmental Movements’ Seoul Branch)
A local environmental group is calling for justice after three roadside trees were allegedly killed by poisoning in Seoul last July near a new drive-through outlet of Starbucks.

The Korea Federation for Environmental Movements’ Seoul Branch on Thursday held a press conference at the site, decrying the state prosecution’s decision not to press charges against the person who admitted to having mistakenly poured pesticides. 

“The (accused) has already admitted to spilling the pesticides and paid 7.8 million won ($6,470) in compensation. What more evidence could one ask for?” the group said, wrapping black ribbons around trees near where the incident had occurred in protest and condolence. “It is beyond comprehension that (the prosecutors) decided to cover up the case instead of uncovering the truth, when there is a clear killer.”

On Tuesday, the Seoul Seobu District Prosecutor’s Office dropped the case against the person, who is the manager of a building near the dead trees, citing lack of evidence for indictment.

The group went on to hold Starbucks Korea responsible, on grounds that the incident occurred during the construction of a Starbucks drive-through store. It claimed that there are “suspicions” that the person killed the trees on purpose so they would not cover up the Starbucks signs, despite the person not being the coffee shop’s employee.

Despite the group’s claims, there appear to be little legal grounds to punish the person as of now. The accused claimed to have spilled the chemicals by mistake. Property damage, if unintended, is not punishable by criminal law. The prosecution did not see enough evidence to prove his criminal intent in killing the trees.

The environmental group raised doubts about whether the investigators had thoroughly looked into suspicions. Instead, the group claimed the investigators brushed it off as a mere property damage case.

“There were so many trees that were killed and cut off without us knowing. This incident has opened our eyes to the value of roadside trees near us ... The culprit should have been brought to justice so that such reckless killings of trees don’t happen again.” 

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)
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