A new paradigm for Environment Assessment (EA) in Korea
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Over the last 30 years, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in Korea has played an important role in decision-making processes particularly for environmentally sensitive projects. However, the EIA system alone has sometimes not been effective enough to ensure the successful resolution of environmental concerns. In order to compensate for the limitations of the EIA system, a new assessment system called Prior Environmental Review System (PERS), which is relevant to Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in some aspects, was introduced in 1993. PERS aims to balance development and preservation by identifying possible environmental impacts of some administrative plans mainly related to development projects in the early stages of planning. However, PERS still appeared to have some weak points such as a limited range of subjects to be assessed, and weakness of tiering (or vertical integration) from PERS to EIA. Therefore, the necessity for reform of the Korean Environmental Assessment (EA) system, including PERS, was raised. In response, the Korean government sought to establish its policy direction for implementing SEA by enhancing the objectivity and expertise of PERS. The policy was approved by the National Assembly in May 2005, and went into effect in June 2006. The introduction of SEA, by enhancing PERS, provides a framework for a system of EA from the strategic level, including PPPs, to the project level. Yet, despite such improvements, some managerial and technical problems associated with subsequent EA implementation remain. This paper critically reviews the evolution of the EA system in Korea and suggests essential improvements for the current EA system based on experiences of implementation of both EIA and SEA since June 2006, in the context of international good practice.
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