Energy and Climate Policy Institute

작성일 : 13-08-02 16:33
Enerzine 31. Anti-transmission tower protest in Miryang breaks the outdated belief
 글쓴이 : 에정센…
조회 : 5,275 No.31.pdf [2097]
1. Issues

Anti-transmission tower protest in Miryang breaks the outdated belief that
“Stable supply of power = public interest”

Whereas the Fukushima Nuclear accident has caused a sea of change in South Korea with regard to the perception of the safety of nuclear power, the protest against the planned 765KV transmission towers in Miryang triggered a widespread public awakening on the country’s power transmission system. The project, which has had to grapple with the prolonged opposition of the local residents for nearly nine years now since its inception in 2005, is aimed at constructing power lines that will connect the Shin-Gori power station, the country’s largest nuclear power plant, with the greater Seoul area.

The protest has not received public attention despite over seven years of continued confrontations, until January 2012, when a 70-year-old man set himself on fire in protest against the construction project. The country’s activist groups were shocked at the incident: 70- to 80-year-old residents had been protesting to death in isolation against the intimidation and violence of KEPCO and the construction companies. The incident prompted two questions: (1) What made them fight so violently? and (2) Is there any alternative to building 765KV transmission towers? These two questions were extended and spread when the activist groups hooked up with Anti-Nuclear Hope Bus Tour which were formed after the wake of the Fukushima disaster

As with most other protests against power transmission tower construction projects, the confrontation in Miryang was triggered by the deep-seated fears regarding the potentially destructive impact of the power lines on the residents’ health and property, and went on for seven years. Such protests have been derided by the country’s media, however, as nothing more than another case of NIMBY. The benefit and convenience of building transmission lines has always been valued more, in the name of “public interest,” than the price that the affected residents have to pay, while the protests by the affected residents are treated as a petty conflict aimed at squeezing the maximum monetary compensation, which is diametrically opposed to the public interest. The Law on Promoting Pastoral Development is founded exactly on such widespread public sentiments; the law, a typical legacy of the past dictatorship, which pushed for unbridled development, provides a powerful legal backing to KEPCO by automatically freeing it from a total of 19 different regulatory restrictions so that it can expropriate lands without having to obtain the consent of the landowners.

It is this spectacular break-up of this old regulatory enforcement framework in Miryang that prompted such widespread social reverberation. The anti-nuclear activist groups that were newly formed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster did not only simply react to the fear of radioactive materials but also woke up to the undemocratic and injust nature of the massive centralized energy system inherent in the nuclear-power generation. The dramatic change in the public perception of the problems of centralized energy supply made people rethink what they had previously scoffed at simply as NIMBY; they woke up to the grand social equality implied in the power supply system, where power is generated in and transmitted over — and sacrifice — the rural areas whereas transmitted power is consumed — and benefits — by those living in the urban areas. Such enlightenment led many of those living in the country’s urban areas to visit the transmission tower construction site and form an alliance with the activists, triggering the proclamation “We are Miryang!”

The residents of Miryang — the “grandmas” — while protesting against the transmission towers as well as the nuclear-power generation that prompted the formation of such centralized power distribution system, made the faulty and interrupted power generation in Shin-Gori Nuclear Plant No. 3 and 4 as well as the saturation of the transmission towers in the greater Seoul area among the hottest social discourses in the country, something even the seasoned activist groups failed to do in the past. The residents of Miryang and the greater community of citizens jointly proposed the formation of a social discussion framework and the holding of an open discussion on television based on the model of the Public Regulatory Commission, which played a key role in resolving the conflicts over the PATH 765KV Transmission Line in the United States. The proposed commission would deal with four key issues, including infringement of the property and health rights of the residents, feasibility of the transmission lines connecting Shin-Gori and Northern Gyeongnam, and potential alternative technologies for the transmission lines.

Written by Bo-ah, Lee (Researcher :

2. Opinion

Obama ministration’s energy policy needs radical change

President Barack Obama unveiled the President’s Climate Action Plan last June, in which the administration laid out plans to cap the CO2 emissions of power stations and to more proactively promote the adoption of clean energy. The plan also made it clear that the United States would play a leading role in UNFCCC by proactively participating in the program. Some observers are upbeat over the announcement, saying that Washington may have ditched its past foot-dragging and may now be ready and willing to assume a more proactive stance in implementing its climate change initiatives.

The plan does not merit any positive remark, however, as most of the suggested policy initiatives are already being or about to be enforced in other countries, with the exception of the expanded adoption of renewable energy. Furthermore, the President’s Climate Action Plan has some hidden pitfalls, the first being how it defines clean energy. The plan deals with wind, solar, and geothermal energy, but the centerpiece of the U.S. energy policy is shale gas. Shale gas has yet to be officially recognized as clean energy, but it is highly likely that some may try to rebrand it as clean energy in the not-so-distant future, or may regard renewable energy as nothing more than a cosmetic ornament for their energy policy. The Obama administration should make the concept and scope of what it perceives as clean energy clear while coming up with more details with regard to its expansion of its renewable-energy policy.

Also notable is that the Obama administration promised that it would play a proactive role in UNFCC. The administration has repeatedly made it clear that it would ditch the foreign policy of the Bush administration and would more proactively participate in UNFCCC. The U.S. negotiators, however, have since then never flinched back from the table, sticking to the principle of “USA First,” which contributed greatly to the derailment of UNFCCC. The expectations of UNFCCC are not high, but it is still a symbolic case of multilateral negotiations. It would be disastrous for the entire world if Washington would be determined to lead the post-Kyoto regime by promoting its interest first. Washington had better come up with clear goals for greenhouse gas emission reduction in place of its hollow rhetoric that it would participate in UNFCCC.

For all the aforementioned concerns, it is still a meaningful development that Washington proposed a roadmap with some specific plan for implementation in that such a move would put greater pressure on China, which is another great emitter of greenhouse gases. Given the fact, however, that the suspicious eyes of the global citizens are glued on the United States, the President’s Climate Action Plan falls far too short of the general expectations. The world, which is going through some serious tangible ramifications due to climate change, is in dire need of a more radical plan. We ask for Washington’s radical rethinking of its climate change policy.

Written by Jin-woo, Lee (Deputy :

3. New Book

ECPI publishes two new books

Tour of Bad Energy

In A Tour of Bad Energy, nine researchers ask themselves the following question while traveling the world: In the current age of climate change, has the pain been distributed evenly the world over in terms of energy generation and consumption? The self-proclaimed “lords of climate justice” visited a total of eight countries — Mexico, South Africa, Germany, and five countries in Asia, including the Philippines and Laos — while pondering the virtues of “climate justice” and “energy justice” on the trails. The book is a soft read on the issue of energy, filled with personal observations.

Transformation of the Dinner Table

Transformation of the Dinner Table offers an exhaustive look at climate change and its seriousness, along with the necessity of energy policy changes, while at the same time presenting a convincing picture of how agriculture and our foods have been hit hard by climate change. The book makes a compelling case of the need for agriculture, which has become a victim of climate change, to rise as the problem solver. The book also lays out some colorful examples, collected both in and outside the country, of what cooperative associations can and are required to resolve the problem. The book is filled with examples that compellingly demonstrate the need for cooperative associations to shift from food innovation to energy innovation, thereby saving Earth through the implementation of innovations on the dinner table.

4. Act on

Labor and environment activists meet with cool indifference to touch on sore spots

A rather unique monthly chat room named “Conversation between Labor and Environment Activists” was held last July 2. Labor and environment activists, who have had occasional encounters in press conferences or discussion fora, were invited by the institution to have forced talks. The meet-up was not the first of its kind; the institution hosted “Forum for Forming Solidarity between Labor and Environment Activists” in 2008, which saw the participants having talks in a seminar facility located in Ganghwado. Some of the participants in the 2008 forum also attended the recent forum, which aimed to identify the areas that saw progress and those that did not.

Heated words were exchanged for over two hours. Although they had difficulty coming up with a shared understanding as each group evolved as an entity with a completely different culture and agenda, one thing was certain: the labor and environment activists need to establish solidarity between them no matter what. Starting with the forum, the institution aims to host a series of regular meet-ups between the activists hailing from the environment and labor movements. We look forward to a happy alliance between the Reds and Greens sometime in the future. 

Written by Hyun-woo, Kim (Researcher:

Research on the Establishment and Reinforcement of a Green-Job Network in Seoul

ECPI conducted a research entitled “Potential and Proliferation Policy of the Green Economy and Green Jobs in Seoul: With Focus on the Energy Sector” in 2012, with a research fund from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The climate change response policies are closely related to the structural transition of the local economy. A systemic approach is necessary since the industry structure and job creation policies are directly interconnected. Therefore, for the policies to be effective, it is essential that the climate change response, industry structure transition, and job creation are integrally considered.

Nonetheless, according to the aforementioned 2012 research, Seoul Metropolitan Government’s policies on the shutting down of a nuclear power plant, climate change response, and medium- and long-term plans for job creation are not sufficiently integrated due to the lack of communication and the systematic and procedural measures. Additionally, the research also concluded that a proper network among the key participants has not been established, and that their understanding or appreciation of the policies is not very high. In this context, the sustainability of those policies is questionable, let alone their effectiveness. A follow-up research, therefore, is needed to improve the integration of the climate change and energy policies and to strengthen each key participant’s potentiality as well as the network.

ECPI is conducting <Research on the Establishment and Reinforcement of a Green-Job Network in Seoul> with a research fund from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which consists of the following: (1) literature review (examples of domestic networking practices); (2) workshops participated in by the key participants in the network (brainstorming and deliberative participation); and (3) qualitative evaluation of network development at phase-by-phase workshops.

Written by Jung-pil, Lee (Researcher;


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