YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- "Yongsan is very transparent, especially in regards to the environment."

That was the assessment from Maj. Lim Sin-taek, a Military officer with the Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND), after participating in U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan's internal Environmental Management System (EMS) audit, May 22.

USAG Yongsan's Directorate of Public Works invited the Ministry of National Defense representative to participate in the annual internal review of the garrison's Environmental Management System (EMS) as part of the garrison's Green Neighbors Program. Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson launched the Green Neighbors Initiative this spring to foster and strengthen environmental stewardship between the U.S. Military and our Korean partners.

"There is so much progress in the Korean government, but the environment remains a relatively new priority," Lim said. "In Korea, some local players, local governments follow, execute and implement an environmental management system … but it is still in its infancy and not the standard."

Although a Republic of Korea Army officer, Lim is currently assigned to SK Energy, the nation's largest oil refiner, to study private sector environmental best practices, under the Training With Industry program. Lim's mission is to take his year-long research findings back to the Ministry of National Defense and help the MND develop and run an environmental management system. Lim says he plans to incorporate what he learned over the past two days about the U.S. Military's implementation of EMS into his recommendations.

During the audit, Lim said he was particularly struck by how open Yongsan is about environmental concerns.

"I accidentally overheard something that private companies would have tried to hide," Lim said. "But Yongsan [personnel] didn't hesitate to discuss openly. So I can listen, I can understand."

Lim said in his opinion, it will take Korea several years to adapt a fully functioning environmental management system on par with the global standard demonstrated by Yongsan Garrison's environmental program.

"In the U.S., the status of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is very big," Lim said. "On the Korean side, the Ministry of Environment does not have the same leverage. It is difficult to implement environmental safeguards and regulations such as EMS because the Ministry of Environment operates at the same level as other ministries."