Environmental country reviews

OECD urges Korea to do more to protect the environment


21/09/2006 - Korea should use energy more efficiently and control green house gas emissions more effectively, according to a new OECD report. While the OECD welcomes Korea’s significant progress in tackling environmental challenges over the past decade, it notes that further steps are needed in the interests both of international environmental cooperation and Korea’s economic development.

The OECD’s Environmental Performance Review of Korea makes a number of recommendations. Among other things, it calls on Korea to: 

  • strengthen its international environmental co-operation, in particular on ozone layer protection, green house gas emissions and marine issues. Korea’s carbon dioxide emissions relative to GDP, for example, are among the highest of OECD countries and double those of France. (Korea’s CO2 emissions intensity, at  0.51 tonnes per USD 1,000, is just behind that of the US (0.55), significantly above the average for OECD countries (0.45) and that of Japan (0.36) and double that of France (0.24).)
  • carry out a green tax reform, identify environmentally harmful subsidies and strengthen the use of economic instruments.
  • integrate water quality and quantity management, fully implement its water reform and use pesticides and fertilisers more efficiently. (Korea is among the heaviest users of pesticides and fertilisers in the OECD relative to agricultural area.)
  • better integrate environmental concerns in energy and transport policies, and improve efficiency in energy and material use.  Korea is one of the few OECD countries which has not improved its energy intensity, calculated as energy use per unit of GDP, relative to 1990.  (At 0.23 tonnes of oil equivalent per USD 1,000 of GDP, Korea’s energy intensity is well above the OECD average (0.19) and much higher than that of France (0.17) or Japan (0.15).)
  • increase efforts to protect nature, biodiversity and the landscape, both as assets for recreation and tourism and for the provision of services such as flood protection.

Among achievements to date, the report notes that Korea has:

  • reduced emissions of major air pollutants such as sulphur oxides through the use of cleaner fuels for vehicles and power plants, and cleaner industrial processes. Sulphur oxide emissions per unit of GDP in Korea now stand at 0.6 kg per USD 1,000 of GDP, half the OECD average of 1.2 kg per USD 1,000 of GDP.
  • improved water quality, thanks to a river-basin management approach and massive investment in wastewater treatment infrastructure of USD 20 billion in less than 10 years. This expanded the coverage of sanitation services from 45% of the population in 1995 to an impressive 84% in 2005.
  • improved waste recycling. Korea now recycles nearly three-quarters of all waste, well above most other OECD countries. In addition, despite rapid economic growth, increase in municipal waste has been limited due to a new volume-based waste fee system.
  • strengthened environmental laws and increased spending on the environment to over 2% of GDP.

The review, part of the OECD’s regular Environmental Performance Reviews of member countries, will be available to journalists on the OECD’s password-protected website. For further information, journalists are invited to contact the OECD's Media Division ( tel. + 33 1 45 24 97 00).

Environmental Performance Review of Korea can be purchased in paper or electronic form through the OECD’s Online Bookshop. Subscribers and readers at subscribing institutions can access the online version via SourceOECD.

Further information on OECD's Environmental Performance Review of Korea can be found at: