Energy and Climate Policy Institute

작성일 : 14-04-07 10:15
Enerzine No 35. Workers and Transmission Towers
 글쓴이 : 에정센…
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   English version_ Following the Money Trail (Template) (1).pdf (2.0M) [4] DATE : 2014-04-13 11:46:19 No.35.pdf [2756]

1. Column
                                                  Workers and Transmission Towers
                                  - Workers in the Front Seat of the Anti-nuclear Hope Bus -

A national workers’ rally was held on November 10 in front of Seoul City Hall to commemorate the death of Jeon Tae Il, the patriotic martyr for workers’ rights who set himself on fire 43 years ago to protest against oppressive labor practices. The rally was crowded with many participants who braved the cold weather, but not all of them were actually workers. Workers from the Ssangyong Motor Chapter of KCTU Metal Union visited the Miryang booth to help sell promotional badges while persuading people to jump onto the Anti-nuclear Hope Bus. Earlier in July, construction workers based in the Yeongnam Region openly stated that they would not lend their hands to the power transmission tower construction project in Miryang, and members of the Ulsan, Busan, and Kyeongnam regional headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions made time, as their situation allowed, to join the gathering on the site and help out. Furthermore, some of the workers who participated in the rally were already on good terms with the seniors from Miryang.

Workers who hailed from Pyeongtaek and Ulsan climbed up the transmission towers in Miryang to join the indefinite sit-in protest that lasted from fall of 2012 to summer of 2013. Those workers who were protesting the layoffs by Ssangyong Motor and another group of workers who were demanding conversion of temporary workers to regular workers climbed up the giant transmission towers that command a clear view of the factories on the opposite side. The protesters had to struggle with basic human necessities and treacherous weather, aside from the potent microwaves emitted from the high-voltage transmission towers. They had a hard time sleeping under the constant crackling noise created by the microwaves. Some even heard howling or had difficulty listening, and they sometimes felt their energy being drained. Bok Ki Seong, one of the protesters, after climbing down the tower, had to be hospitalized for two weeks, followed by two months of convalescence.

Senior residents of Miryang could not consider the workers merely strangers. The senior residents got on board the Pilgrims of Hope Bus for a tour of the labor disputes fought by other workers, which formed a close bond between them and the seniors.

Now close friends, the workers and the seniors help each other when necessary. It was now the workers’ turn to request a friendly visit to Miryang to support the seniors. On November 5, various regional chapters of unions, including those from Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, the Hyundai Motor Temporary Workers Association, Ssangyong Motors, and the Network to Realize a World without Temporary Workers, all chipped in for a proposal to jump onto the Anti-nuclear Hope Bus bound for Miryang. Choi Byeong Seung, a trade unionist who had joined the sit-in protest up in the Ulsan transmission tower, said it was a time for him to pay back his debt and more: he remembered the grandmas in Miryang who visited them twice, and he pledged he would do everything he could to publicize the issue of the transmission towers in Miryang.

Connected via the transmission towers, the workers and the seniors formed a solid and cordial solidarity. The editors hope such solidarity would evolve even more, to realize energy justice in industries.

*Note: The seniors in Miryang have been protesting for over eight years on high mountains to stop the construction by KEPCO of 765kv transmission towers across villages in Miryang, a southern city in South Korea, for the power that will be generated by a new nuclear power plant. The protest is now recognized as a symbol of the South Korean anti-nuclear movement.

Written by Kim, Hyunwoo (Researcher) /

2. Interview

Every month, ECPI interview experts, activists, researchers and trade union in other countries who have experience on Korean society has. This month ECPI choose Witton who is an activist and researcher in Thailand as the first interviewee.
1) ECPI and MEE-Net, especially you, have talked about the energy issue. We also have visited several organizations that are against power plants. At that time, you said the Thai government always anticipate energy demands and invest for more energy supply. Actually, Korea is no different from Thai. Korean government continuously said there is a need for more energy supply and the expansion of a nuclear power plant even though there was huge nuclear accident in Japan. I heard that Thai is also considering building a nuclear power plant. How about now? Is there any progress about the construction of a nuclear power plant? And Korean government insist that nuclear power plant is the clean energy to deal with climate change. Dose Thai government also make excuses like this?

->The energy planning process in Thailand is still very much based on the discourse of “energy security,” a highly contested term that is fed by the over-projection of future energy demand and that creates the conditions for over-investment in and over-consumption of electricity. The option of nuclear energy is part of that discourse and is based on the belief that nuclear represents a cheap and secure fuel supply. However, since Fukushima, the Thai public has strongly questioned the safety of nuclear plants. This has led the Thai government to postpone nuclear projects from the original Power Development Plan (PDP) 2030, though two reactors remain in the plans. While for now no preparatory action, such as field surveys, legal work or skills training is being undertaken for nuclear development, the government is reluctant to completely cut this option from Thailand’s future.

2) Korea began to take an interest in the transboundary environmental problems after  the Fukushima accident. But Thai has already raised the transboundary environmental problems because of the dam construction project in the Mekong river. There seems to be no clear solution on this. Aside from the dam construction, if a nuclear power plant gets built the issue becomes more sensitive. There is a need for an organization or institution to deal with sensitive transboundary issues such as the ones stated above. Is there a way on how this transboundary issue in the Mekong area will get resolved? Or does MEE-Net trying to work on this issue?

->From our experience working on hydropower development on the Mekong River, transboundary impacts are a major growing concern, especially because the EIA and other assessment tools are limited by the sovereignty of states. Even existing cooperation on this issue, such as via the Mekong River Commission, remains weak. MEE Net promotes the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as a preferred alternative, as it is based not only on a single project but rather on the entire basin development plan and its cumulative impacts. As for mainstream dams on the Mekong and Salween Rivers, MEE Net advocates for stakeholders in member countries to learn from and apply international practices and experiences. The question now is how to effectively advocate and lobby for governments to agree, particularly in the case of upstream countries like China. And while transboundary impacts are not officially mentioned in the nuclear development in the Region. Recently, some local Thai communities in Ubon Ratchathani near a proposed nuclear site in Vietnam have risen a public concerns around transboundary impacts of the nuclear.
3) The more the economic growth improves in the countries surrounding Mekong, the more demand for energy increases. Naturally, energy supply through the dams in Mekong river will heat up. The problem is that a large amount of energy flows into Thai. Thai has become an energy black hole. Is there anything being done about this issue with other groups in neighbor countries?

-> From a regional perspective, MEE Net actively monitors the development of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) regional grid, promoted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to create a market for Independent Power Producer (IPP) generation and electricity import. We have found that the IPP investment in generation for export creates environmental injustice by taking resources from host countries which lack electricity - such as Myanmar with its 26% electrification rate - to feed industry in other more developed countries. We would like to see energy resources distributed equitably to those who live closest to those resources. Producing electricity shouldn’t come at the expense of the ecosystems and livelihoods of local people. Currently in Myanmar, we have introduced a community-based participatory SEA that allows local communities to gain the knowledge and awareness to deal with the changing river ecosystems arising from the impact of hydropower dams, as well as to develop the capacity to independently solve problems and pursue alternative options.

4) The Mekong area is a new market to Korea. Already millions of dollars have gone into the dam construction and power transmission in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar by ODA. That is why ECPI and other ODA monitoring NGOs in Japan and Australia insist having a strong environmental friendly guideline not only for ODA but also for the private sectors. As a country in the Mekong area and the first country already experiencing the side-effect of ODA, do you have any request or advise to the government, company and NGOs of the supporting country?

-> The promotion of the regional grid fosters competition between countries using ODA as a tool for preferential access to contracts. The main driver of the situation is the connection between ODA, loans, and investors for IPPs. MEE Net has conducted research on the connections between capital and profit-making in our publication Following the Money Trail of Mekong Energy Industry(Original file is attached). In short, the governments from the origin countries of energy development companies, like Korea, are promoting exports since there are limited domestic markets and resources and using public money through ODA to do this. It is critical for taxpayers in those countries to understand that their public funds are going directly to benefit those companies. We urge the companies in Korea to join hands with the people of the Mekong by transparently and opening sharing their information and avoiding double standards in their investment practices by following internationally accepted standards.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen has dedicated his working life to prominent environmental struggles in Thailand and the Mekong Region. In 1986, he formed the pioneer Thai environmental NGO, Project for Ecological Recovery (PER), to oversee a milestone campaign against destructive hydropower dams and later the campaign for a commercial logging ban, which raised public awareness and grew the Thai environmental movement in the 1980s and 90s. In 1992, Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA), was developed to empower the civil society groups working on environmental sustainability in the Mekong region. Given the increasing role of energy as a driver of change in Southeast Asia, Witoon founded Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEE Net) in 2008, a network comprising over 40 partner organizations spanning across the six Mekong countries.

3. Act on

                                            Serial Forum on Ecological Basic Income Underway

With the deepening crisis in financial capitalism worldwide, the so-called trickle-down effect has now evaporated. Coupled with the double whammy of the oil crisis and climate change, as well as the ever-worsening polarization of society, the conventional economic growth model is expected to be no longer feasible. The basic income system we have now in the age of low economic growth is the result of the combined efforts of welfare states to shift paradigms from perfect employment based on wage labor to one based on socially required labor, and from selective and beneficial welfare to universal welfare.

Basic income, which signifies the “income paid unconditionally to all individuals without the precondition of an assets review or demand for work”, may be one of the key requirements for the recovery of human life with dignity, the most basic human necessity, and for the resolution of today’s ecological crisis due to climate change. It is one of the key requirements for the realization of a society based not on competition and the creation of money (goods), but on care and life.

The Energy & Climate Policy Institute joined forces with the Green Conversion Institute, the Wind and Water Institute of the Daejeon Culture Academy, and the Regional Development Center of Hanshin University to host a serial forum for the proposal of some policy initiatives applicable to Korean society through focused discussion of the concept of basic income.

The Forum hosted two sessions last year on “The Current State and Issues of Basic Income” and “The Welfare State and Basic Income”. They were followed by a third forum on March 28 on the topic “A Caring Society and Basic Income”. In the forum, we will tap into the power of collective wisdom to answer the following questions: “What do we hope to achieve by realizing the basic income system?” and “What would be the power of basic income in our bid to realize the goal of our dream society?”
                                                                        Written by Lee, Boah (Researcher) /

                                                      Three Years after Fukushima

The Anti-nuclear Festival, which commemorates the third year of the Fukushima Daiichi Plant disaster, was held on March 8. Themed “Documentary of Life: 3 Years after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Disaster”, the Festival began with mingling with citizens across the plaza at noon, proceeded with the main event at 2 p.m., and finished with a parade along the main thoroughfares of Seoul at 4 p.m.

The Energy and Climate Policy Institute participated in the Festival through a booth in the book fair in the citizens’ plaza. Six books and other reference books published by the Institute so far were displayed and sold. The Institute publicized its three-year roadmap for building an infrastructure for the just conversion by civil society of energy and climate policies, and its launch of a project to overcome the government’s  focus on energy supply by coming up with an alternative energy policy.

The citizens who braved the cold weather to stop by the Festival also showed great interest in supporting the Institute while sipping the warm green tea imported from Laos, where the Institute is running a support program for renewable energy.
Yee, Youngran /


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