The relevant project in this case was a reclamation project whose contents were that the former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would build an embankment in the estuary area of two rivers and create 28,300ha of farmland and an 11,800ha freshwater lake. Residents of the area in question complained that they would suffer direct and serious environmental damages due to the implementation of the project.
The Supreme Court emphasized that in the event that a third party had his legally protected interests infringed by an administrative disposition, he was qualified to file an administrative lawsuit to seek the nullification of the administrative disposition. However, in the case where general, indirect and abstract interests were infringed, there were no legally protected interests. The purport of the laws and regulations at hand that the disposition of the public waters reclamation license and the disposition of the approval of the implementation of the farmland reclamation project were based on protected the individual interests of the residents in the area that was subject to an environment impact assessment when they were expected to suffer direct and serious environmental damages due to the implementation of the project. Therefore, their qualification to be plaintiffs to seek the affirmation of nullification of the said dispositions was recognized.
Since Article 6 of the Framework Act on Environmental Policy was not deemed to give specific rights to the citizens, the residents living outside of the areas evaluated for environmental impact assessment were not deemed to be qualified to be plaintiffs challenging the said dispositions.
The court decided that in the event that a project that was supposed to undergo an environment impact assessment was approved without going through such assessment, such disposition was deemed to be in violation of the law, but if such procedure was undergone, though the content of the environment impact assessment might somewhat be insufficient, unless the extent of such insufficiency was so great that the legislative purport of the environment impact assessment system cannot be achieved, such insufficiency was just a factor in judging whether such approval was in violation of laws including abusing or going beyond the discretionary authority, and such insufficiency did not render the approval illegal.
In the event that a disposition of public waters reclamation license and a disposition of the approval of the implementation of a project were issued to create farmland and a freshwater lake but later it was expected that the freshwater lake would not meet the criteria of water quality for agricultural water, as the purpose of the project of creating farmland and a freshwater lake would not be realized, each disposition mentioned above was null and void.
Although the dispositions in the case had defects such as a lack of legitimate environment impact assessment and water quality of the fresh water lake, such defects were not substantial and obvious to the degree that the Project was null and void.