About 2,200 shipwrecks remain abandoned in South Korean waters, posing a potential environmental threat, a ruling party lawmaker insisted Friday.
Rep. Seo Sam-seok of the Democratic Party, citing data released by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries for a parliamentary inspection, said the number of abandoned shipwrecks nationwide now reaches 2,199 but that the government's on-site inspections of them are progressing slowly.
The lawmaker said the maritime affairs ministry has conducted on-site inspections of only 31 of the 2,199 abandoned shipwrecks over the last five years, urging Minister Moon Seong-hyeok to pay greater attention to the issue from the perspective of environmental safety.
Notably, the lawmaker said, at least nine sunken ships pose oil spill threats but the ministry has taken countermeasures for only two of them so far.
"Of the 2,199 shipwrecks, on-site inspections have been conducted for only 31 over the past five years, or an annual rate of 6.2. At this pace, it will take 366.5 years to complete field inspections on all shipwrecks," Seo said.
"Abandoned shipwrecks can pose serious environmental threats, particularly due to the frequent onset of typhoons, climate change, undersea earthquakes and other environmental changes," the lawmaker said, asking the minister to significantly increase the budget to handle the issue of abandoned shipwrecks. (Yonhap)