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Investigators use spy tactics to bust polluters

Apr 24,2017
Four investigators from the Special Judicial Police visited a demolition construction site in Seodaemun District, western Seoul, as part of an effort to help reduce fine dust last Tuesday.

The air was thick with dust as the debris was hauled onto trucks at the site. The investigators were stopped at the entrance but workers let them in when they flashed their IDs.

The investigators quickly snapped photographs of the site. One investigator noted the fact that water was not being sprayed even though there were sprinklers. They also discovered a pile of construction waste, about 5,000 tons, that was not covered up - another violation of the regulations.

“The dirt is dry, and there are no dump truck wheel prints,” one of the investigators said.

He asked one employee how long the waste had been left in the open, but the employee did not answer. “Three days,” another employee answered. The investigators used this evidence to question the field chief, who initially lied that the waste was out for only a day, but admitted the truth when presented with evidence.

After investigating the 48,000 square meter (516,668 square foot) construction site for over four hours, the investigators charged the construction site for violating the Clean Air Conservation Act.

According to the Seoul Research Institute last year, construction site dust accounted for 22 percent of the fine dust produced in Korea. It is the second highest producer of fine dust, after vehicles, which produce 25 percent.

Since last year, Seoul Metropolitan Government has been operating environmental conservation investigation teams to reduce fine dust.

The investigators crack down on vehicles and construction sites that do not use dust covers or spray water. A total of 16 investigators form four teams of four, and each team investigates four to eight construction sites a day.

From the end of last year to this February, they inspected 560 construction sites, ordered corrections to 23 places, and booked 29 sites for violation.

They secretly investigate construction sites in a variety of ways, usually for three to four days, to capture evidence of any violations. If evidence is found, they visit the construction site to confirm their findings.

Their method of investigation is reminiscent of a James Bond film. They inspect the roofs of buildings around construction site like undercover snipers, and sometimes also disguise themselves as residents.

“We will continue to crack down on construction sites in various ways to make them comply with the law,” the head of the investigation team, Hwang Oh-ju said.

BY LIM SUN-YOUNG[enational@joongang.co.kr]