SEOUL, President Moon Jae-in instructed his aides Monday to explore ways to get rid of all illegally abandoned waste nationwide, estimated to total 1.2 million tons, by the end of this year.

In February, the environment ministry announced plans to dispose of the waste by 2022.

But Moon wants the work to be done within this year, according to his spokesperson, Ko Min-jung.

Holding a regular meeting with senior presidential aides, Moon called for the completion of the process by the end of 2019 "at any cost," she said.

The president also urged law-enforcement authorities to strongly punish those who take illicit gains by dumping waste.

Moon is especially concerned about health risks and inconveniences to people from a buildup of unwanted plastics and other toxic trash.

"A big transformation in (relevant) administrative affairs is necessary to improve the system, as well as a shift in public perceptions of the dumping and discharge of garbage," he was quoted as saying.

For the fight against such waste, the government has earmarked 31.4 billion won (US$27 million) in a package of proposed supplementary budgets. But the emergency budget bill remains pending at the National Assembly amid political wrangling over a set of reform bills.

Source: Yonhap news Agency