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Appellate Court Acquits Company in Criminal Case on Alleged Violation of Soil Environmental Conservation Act


Kim & Chang’s Environment Practice and Litigation Practice successfully reversed a trial court’s decision that convicted a company over an alleged violation of the Soil Environmental Conservation Act for transporting crushed rocks containing fluoride exceeding soil contamination standards at construction sites. 

In the appellate trial, we analyzed the following legal issues:  (i) whether the transported crushed rocks can be categorized as soil when “soil” is not defined under the Soil Environmental Conservation Act; (ii) the specific meaning of “leakage and spillage of contaminated soil” which is prohibited by the Soil Environmental Conservation Act; (iii) whether the Soil Environmental Conservation Act can be applied to those areas not yet classified as “land”; and (iv) whether the defendants who supervised and managed the construction sites had an intent to violate the law. 

In light of our analysis, the appellate court held the verdict of an acquittal because “it is difficult to conclude that the crushed rocks at the construction sites exceeded the soil contamination standards, and it is hard to conclude that the defendants had an intent to leak or spill contaminated soil.”  The Supreme Court affirmed the decision. 

This is a noteworthy case because (i) the adequacy of the regulatory framework related to soil contamination was addressed at court; (ii) our in-depth analysis of facts and relevant laws successfully led to an acquittal; and (iii) the Ministry of Environment recognized the intrinsic problem of the relevant regulations and sought regulatory improvements. 

Moreover, the final decision to acquit was especially important because it would have been difficult for the company to complete its construction work without the appellate court’s reversal of the trial court’s conviction.  With the appellate court’s decision to acquit, the company was able to proceed with the remaining construction in a timely manner.