Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Air Pollution, Risk, and Neoliberal Governmentality in Korea: Exploring Environmental Litigation and Informational Regulation in Contemporary Korea

Sat, June 25, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 113


This paper aims to explore the role of scientific uncertainty in the fate of air pollution litigation and regulation in contemporary Korea, and claims that the rise of neoliberal governance in environmental risk ultimately made the critical issue of knowledge and responsibility ‘unproblematic.’ We will first analyze a key legal case against the Korean automobile industry: in February 2007, the Green Korea United filed a lawsuit against seven Korean auto manufacturers, alleging that they neglected their legal obligations for reducing air pollution generated by automobiles. The court demanded a multitude of legal and scientific clarities regarding the injuries suffered by air pollution, the role of the automobile industry in its generation, and the causation between auto emission and a particular disease. While the court lowered the plaintiff’s burden of proof, the Green Korea United lost the case. At the regulatory front, the Korean government’s attempt to impose the regulation on the total emission of particulate matter failed amid mounting criticisms: private industries claimed that the government attempt to regulate particulate matter was unrealistic due to the lack of systematic measure for it. The Korean government instead introduced an “environmental information disclosure system” in order to address a multitude of scientific and legal uncertainties in controlling air pollution. As we argue, this informational turn brought into what can be characterized as “neoliberal effects” on the epistemic, legal, and political dimensions of environmental governance, making critical issues of legal responsibility and scientific uncertainty ‘unproblematic’ under the framework of neoliberalism.