Thursday, March 27, 2008

the 2000 water dumping


My "The Host Movie REVIEW"

March 18th, 2008 at 10:33 am

GI Myths: The 2000 Yongsan Water Dumping Scandal

» by GI Korea in: USFK

A persistent GI myth that continues to be perpetuated around Korea is the dumping of formaldehyde down a drain on Yongsan Garrison in Seoul in February 2000 by a USFK mortician. Spectacular headlines were splashed across Korea’s media outlets especially on the internet about how the mortician had exposed the millions of people in Seoul to cancer causing chemicals. This incident reached such mythical proportions in Korea that the most popular monster movie in Korean history was based on it.

This incident all started when the so called environmental group Green Korea released reports over the internet about the dumping of formaldehyde on Yongsan and led protests against USFK. Green Korea, a group no one had heard of before, quickly became the darlings of the Korean media.

Here is a press release they released concerning the 2000 water dumping:

Nowadays the U.S army’s toxic fluid dumping to Han-river is main issue in Korea. On February 9th, in the US Eighth Army Mortuary Building, 480 bottles of formaldehyde, used for embalming were dumped in a drain without any detoxification. It has been confirmed that the US Army has been releasing Formaldehyde for long periods of time into the Han-River.

Mr. Albert L. McFarland after issuing an order to pour these fluids down the drain, was refused by his subordinate on the basis that the drain led to the Han River, and that the chemicals are known to cause cancer and birth defects. Mr. McFarland swore at the soldier, and ordered him to execute the order. Do you know why Mr. McFarland ordered like that? The only reason is that the boxes were covered with dust.

This case was reported to the Headquarters of the Eighth Division in a statement made by the soldier who executed the order. On July 10th, the Headquarters concluded that, ‘there was no problem if the chemicals were diluted with water’. Formaldehyde is a very toxic chemical. This is the label of the bottle. It was written like this Poison, Can not be made none poisonous.

This case serves as an exemplar for how the US and US military is deceiving, purposefully or not, Korea and its people. They asserted that the American bases in Korea caused no harm or damage to the environment, and that the US military is abiding by US EPA regulations, and that it is environmentally much safer than Korean bases or companies. However, the fact that the US military is disposing of toxic fluids such as formaldehyde in the Han River, where 10 million people use it for household use, is in itself an outrage and mockery to the Korean people. [Green Korea United]

These accusations by Green Korea were repeated over and over again in the Korean media with one editorial in the nation’s largest newspaper the Chosun Ilbo asking, "Would they dump toxic chemicals into the Potomac River?":

These toxic chemicals are widely known to cause cancer and birth defects. The Han river supplies drinking water for over 10 million citizens residing in metropolitan Seoul and its satellite cities. Are Koreans disposable people?

The news is ethically repulsive. Environmentally, the act is destruction-friendly. In psychiatric terms, it comes close to an act of quasi-murder [oh my!]. For, what matters here is the sick mind and attitude that made possible the dumping of the cancer-causing substance. Whether or not the quantity of the discarded was enough to cause cancer is not the issue here.

Notice how this article sounds almost exactly like the Green Korea press release. It makes you wonder if Green Korea wrote it for the Chosun Ilbo. Green Korea and their media and political allies demanded the imprisonment of the USFK mortician and even the resignation of the USFK commander. These sensational headlines also caused widespread public condemnation of USFK in Korea with no one in the media actually interested in finding out what really happened. Of course the truth of what really happened that day on Yongsan is of no concern to these people, establishing the mythology is.

Let’s look at what really happened that day. There was formaldehyde dumped down the drain on Yongsan Garrison in February 2000, that fact is not in dispute. However, a number of the myths surrounding this fact are in dispute. The first myth is the amount of chemicals dumped. Green Korea claims that 60 gallons of formaldehyde was dumped into the Han River when in fact only 20 gallons was dumped. The next myth are the claims that the people of Seoul were exposed to cancer causing chemicals. The formaldehyde was diluted first of all by running water, then was processed through the Seoul waste treatment system, and finally through the Nanjido central metropolitan treatment plant along with 1.9 million gallons of other sewage and waste that was processed through these facilities that day.

To further clarify this point let’s look at the man in the middle of this controversy Mr. Albert McFarland. To this day, this man is the subject of widespread condemnation in Korea with no one reporting his side of the story. The ROK Drop has come into possession of some documents from the investigation that clearly shows McFarland’s side of the story that further clarifies that the formaldehyde was no danger to the public. Note that none of the excerpts from the documents I am showing here are FOUO or classified:

McFarland was taking over and trying to clean up the facility he inherited when the prior supervisor had to return to America due to an illness in his family. Part of the clean up was to dispose of the old formaldehyde. McFarland decided to dispose of the old formaldehyde the same way he was trained to do it in the United States and has always done it, including his prior assignment in Panama. This was all done in accordance with prior established procedures. I guess that answers the question the Chosun Ilbo had if Americans would dump formaldehyde in the Potomac River. It makes you wonder why the Chosun Ilbo didn’t bother to investigate and find out how US morticians are trained before making such claims. Than again when you are into myth making what use are facts.

The rest of the excerpt of this document concerns another myth put out against McFarland that he recklessly put the people who worked under him in danger. As can be seen in the document an Industrial Hygiene Survey was done prior that rated the mortuary as being of "normal limits" which classifies its workers as not needing protective equipment. Here is another excerpt from a document that further shows how absurd this claim is:

Like I said absurd.

The next myth is that McFarland made racial slurs towards the Korean workers, once again there is always another side to the story:

Reading through the documents and witness statements it is clear that McFarland has a big mouth. The other Korean witness confirms that McFarland would often call Mr. Kim stupid and another soldier that worked at the mortuary said that McFarland used to call Kim stupid and that he acts like a child and would make off color comments to him. McFarland was definitely unprofessional in how he spoke to Mr. Kim, but none of the documents supported any claims of racial slurs used by McFarland.

It is clear that Mr. Kim had plenty of reason to dislike McFarland. Reading through to documents even more discloses that Mr. Kim had even more reason to dislike McFarland:

So McFarland is the new boss and he begins making the employees and soldiers actually do their jobs and not hang out in the commissary all day and is extremely critical of the work they are doing. It makes you wonder what the two Korean workers were doing at the commissary in the first place, but I’m sure people can draw their own conclusions on that. Also if we have learned anything from these documents, it is that you don’t want to die while stationed in USFK:

Yes, the hero of the Korean environmental movement is a guy that throws away people’s body parts because he too lazy to put them back in the person’s body.

Obviously Mr. Kim did not like McFarland and preferred the prior supervisor Mr. Pool because he let him hang out in the commissary all day. It doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination that Mr. Kim saw an opportunity to get back at McFarland when he had him dispose of the formaldehyde down the drain that day. After disposing of the fluid he contacted Green Korea and staged pictures in the mortuary and then Korean media sensationalized the story.

So why was Green Korea and the Korean media so interested in sensationalizing this incident? Well let’s go back to that prior Chosun Ilbo article to answer this one:

"Are they here to defend us? Thanks but from whom?" The answer to the question is in a sense becoming more and more ambiguous and ambivalent in the post inter-Korean summit detente.

Frankly, some Koreans are also scared of the idea of a defense by those who commanded to dump the toxic substance; who murdered many Korean hostesses, the poor souls, who had to sell sex to earn their subsistence; and, who care little about those Koreans suffering from constant bombing exercises like the one in Maehyang-ri. Why are they reluctant to fully disclose the facts about Nogun-ri massacres? Is the SOFA really a fair arrangement?

This incident happened in February 2000, but didn’t make massive headlines until July 2000. The first inter-Korean summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il happened in June 2000; the public in Korea was delirious with unification fever and perceptions of North Korea changed dramatically from one of animosity to one of a misunderstood uncle. Today we know that the summit and the follow on Nobel Peace Prize to Kim Dae-jung was bought with a $500 million dollar bribe to Kim Jong-il by Kim Dae-jung. We also know today that the bribe and follow on aid packages given to Kim Jong-il in the name of the Sunshine Policy went on to expand his military and advance his ballistic missile and nuclear programs to the point that North Korea now possesses a nuclear bomb.

The Sunshine Policy is now recognized as an utter failure, but back then the Korean people thought very differently and this led the anti-US movement in Korea to exploit this change in sentiment by trying to create a perception that the United States was the reason for the continued division of the country and not North Korea. They also used this incident to demand changes to the US-ROK Status of Forces Agreement which they claim is unfair, which is of course another GI myth. They used this incident to further their aims which to this day this incident continues to be demagogued in South Korea with continued hatred of Mr. McFarland and claims of US environmental crimes.

So what ended up happening to Mr. McFarland? Well he was investigated by the military and was the focus of vicious protests against him by Koreans that wanted him tried and jailed. Here is what the military investigator concluded:

Yes in the investigation he was found to have done nothing wrong and it was recommended no action be taken against him. The commanding officer disagreed and ended up suspending McFarland for 30 days without pay probably to appease the Korean public’s anger. Well as history has shown us now, offering sacrificial lambs to appease public anger in Korea does not work. The demagogues just whipped the masses into more of a fury and used the suspension of Mr. McFarland as evidence that USFK is committing great environmental crimes and don’t care about Koreans. They continued to protest and make demands that the USFK commander resign.

Then the South Korean Ministry of Justice got involved even though they have no jurisdiction over McFarland since the incident happened on duty and on a US military base which the US-ROK SOFA agreement states is a case that is in US jurisdiction. McFarland did not attend the trial but was fined $4000. USFK paid the $4000 fine, probably once again in the hopes of appeasing public anger. Of course this only encouraged the anti-US movement even more.

Unhappy with the results, the Seoul District court ordered a re-trial. Yes you heard that right, McFarland was convicted once and since the anti-US groups didn’t like the verdict another trial was ordered. That is how it works in Korea, it is "rule by law" instead of "rule of law". It is this manipulation of Korean law for clearly partisan political purposes, why a SOFA agreement with Korea exists in the first place.

The new trial sentenced McFarland to six months in jail, which was more jail time than a taxi driver that raped a newly arriving American Army private at Incheon airport ever saw because his original conviction was overturned because the US private did not show enough evidence of resisting the rape. Folks this is Korean justice for you.

What else is so hypocritical about the protests, anger, and down right demagoguery of this issue is that when Korean companies contaminate the Han River, Green Korea could care less:

It is shocking news that 29 timber companies were found to have released 271 tons of formalin over the past three years into streams feeding the Han River, the main source of drinking water for Seoul and Kyonggi Province.

Formalin is basically a watered-down version of the highly toxic formaldehyde.

The discovery vividly testifies to the futility of the government’s campaigns to preserve water resources and protect the environment. […]

The timber companies have used the chemical to prevent the decay of their products to preserve the original patterns and the quality of wood used to make furniture or flooring.

Although the companies had the financial capability to install facilities for treating the polluted water, they simply did not bother. [Korea Times]

Lumber companies dump 271 tons of chemicals directly into the Han River with no treatment at all and it is worthy of a brief mention in the Korea Times; a Yongsan mortician drains 20 gallons of formaldehyde mixed with water down a drain that is the established procedure for disposing of the fluid, which then gets processed through not one but two water treatment plants and months of protests occur, an entire nation is brainwashed to hate the mortician Mr. McFarland, he is tried twice and jail sentence give to him, and even a blockbuster monster movie is created to further exploit this myth. Truly incredible, and yet people wonder why there is SOFA Agreement in place?

In a bit of poetic justice, in October 2006 it was discovered that a number of anti-US groups including those in the Korean environmental movement like Green Korea were linked to the Il Shim Hoe North Korean spy scandal; not that the people invested in perpetuating this myth really care.

Further Reading:
The Mortician’s Tale - Asia Times
Great Dumping Scandal of 2000 - USinKorea

COMMENTS FROM THE ABOVE ARTICLE.........................................................................................

Kalani, I agree the treatment of the bodies is definitely disturbing and I can understand why McFarland was so pissed off about it. This may also provide additional motive on why Kim went to Green Korea and the media to have leverage to save his own skin for obvious incompetence of his official duties. If I was the parents of deceased soldiers processed through that mortuary I would be highly upset about what was going on there.

I looked around Green Korea’s webpage and they have been active with the Saemangeum affair since 1997 however they didn’t start making big headlines until 2000 along with their Kooni Range activities that also became big news in 2000. My opinion is the group is a anti-US front group which has to pick a few non-US environmental issues in order to keep the appearance of being an environmental group instead of the anti-US group that they really are. The fact that the Korean environmental movement was linked to the Ilshimhoe spy scandal only further validates this.

Pete, As far as I know McFarland is still working at the mortuary which I actually find to be a good thing because he obviously cares about the job he is doing and that mortuary is probably extremely squared away right now. As far as being employee of the year I do not know but judging by his efforts to fix the mortuary I wouldn’t be surprised.

He was sentenced to jail but the sentencing was all show because the Korean court system does not have the power to send him jail due to his SOFA status. So the whole conviction was a sham and was nothing more then legal theater for the anti-US groups to bash USFK with.

CPT Kim,

As far as Mr. Kim I do not know what his status is but judging by his documented incompetence in caring for the bodies processed through the morgue as well as his actions in allowing unauthorized pictures to be taken in the mortuary I wouldn’t be surprised if he was no longer working there.

Also just the fact that Mr. McFarland is still working there leads me to believe that Mr. Kim is probably gone because I can’t imagine those two still being able to work together, but like I said I do not know for sure and would appreciate anyone who knows to leave a comment.


You Know I wonder if, “The Host 2″ will be the revenge of Mr Kim?

I also wonder if “The Host 3″ will be about the canal and Korea awaking a Soju Godzilla.

Could make for some interesting films.

Mike McStay on March 19th, 2008


USFK made a big mistake allowing the fine to be paid and not stone walling the Korean courts. This was clearly a line of duty infraction, and if don’t repect the SOFA, who the hell will? It set a bad precident and gave credence to the likes of Green Korea.

Also, back in 2000, and for some time after that, the Green Korea site had nothing but USFK-related material on it. I checked the site frequently for a long period of time, and in my memory, the notes about the reclamation project and other affairs not related to USFK or the US Embassy were not put up until months or a couple of years after the dumping incident.

The way it seemed to me based on watching the site and reading up on this years several years ago, Green Korea did as frequently happens in Korean civic groups as it gained in recognition thanks to the press championing it against USFK in 2000 —- it began taking onboard other environmental groups that were already operating before Green Korea became a national figure or were organized afterward. Either way, it seemed clear to me they had affilitated themselves with Green Korea in the typical umbrella fashion of Korean civic groups.

It wasn’t until this expansion that Green Korea really seemed to become a national movement, and from my looking at the site back then, unless I’ve gotten knocked in the head hard between now and then and dreamed all this up, none of the non-USFK, US Embassy stuff was on the site before the group mushroomed.

I do remember they had up one typical base waste oil page up that focused on a ROK installation, but I did not see the land reclamation or any other non-US related stuff in Korean or English when I was watching back then.

As for the new documents, they did clear up one big question I had never been able to satisfy before: how long had Mr. Kim been working for USFK?

When the images were staged of him dumping the chemicals came out from Green Korea, I wondered if he were a new employee and a plant.

The USFK documents seem to clearly show what GI Korea said: it was a classic case of a new boss coming in and taking charge and shaking things up and the old employees becoming disgruntled.

usinkorea on March 20th, 2008

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