OB’s Free Use of Han River Water Stirs Controversy
One of South Korea’s largest and most powerful beer conglomerates, Oriental Brewery (OB), has been taking its water from the Han River for 36 years. OB has had approval to use water from the North Han River since 1979, but the controversy arose when it was discovered that the company had only been paying a fraction of the projected cost for use of the water. While the amount of water taken and purified from the Han River should have cost the company close to 7.7 billion won, OB was found to have only been paying about 15% of that fee.
OB claims that the reason they never paid was because no one ever asked them for the money. After they received initial approval, they simply kept renewing their license each year and it was never disputed nor were their payments ever called into question. A series of accounting errors and miscommunications between administrative divisions appear to be the root of the error. OB has resolved to work together with the government to resolve the issue and pay any fees that are legally required.