South Korea's worst oil-spill caused by a collision of a crane-barge owned by Samsung Heavy Industries with the Hong Kong registered oil tanker "Habei Spirit" occured in December 2007.
The spill affected the protected coastal area within the Taean National Park.
11 000 tons of oil were spilt. Considerable mobilisation took place to clean up the spill, involving central, provincial and local government. Especially important was the popular civil society support with people participating from many parts of S. Korea in the clean up. There was also International scientific support in providing advice on the scientific and governance aspects of the clean up; for example, a team of 4 scientists from ICTA (UAB-Barcelona) participated on-site.
180 kms of beaches were affected including Millipo beach one of the country's most famous beaches. Approximately 1000 fishfarms and related have been affected.
Samsung Heavy Industries has offered $81 "donation" to repair local ecosystems. In fact, considerable impact on fisheries and aquaculture have been registered with 70% fishermen out of work 3 years after the accident. Major impacts are to be seen also on eco-tourim - 86% decline in tourism during first 3 years following the spill.
Conflicts have arisen around clean-up responsibilities and compensation for affected individuals and collectives. 4 suicides have been committed and they were all directly linked to the spill (including a former spokesperson of fisherman's association).
In January 2013 it was reported that 734 billion won (US$693 million) was awarded by the court as compensation for the losses victims suffered and clean-up costs. According to the judgement (that could still be contested at the time), the damages were to be paid out between the OIPC - the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (three intergovernmental organisations (the 1971 Fund, the 1992 Fund and the Supplementary Fund) which provide compensation for oil pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers), that will have to pay 329 billion (US$310 million), which includes 145 billion won (US$136 million) on behalf of the owners of the Hebei Spirit. Samsung Crane will have to pay 5.6 billion won (US$5.2 million) and the rest will be paid by the government.
The Hebei Spirit Oil Spill Pollution Victims Support and Environmental Clean Up Special Law (Taean Special Law) guarantees that once the ruling is finalized, the South Korean government must pay out all the damages, then collects the required amounts from the companies involved.