Energy and Climate Policy Institute

작성일 : 14-05-19 07:50
Enerzine No.36 Sewol Ferry, Nuclear Power Plant and Korea Society in Danger
 글쓴이 : 에정센…
조회 : 10,211 No.36.pdf [2384]

                                        Sewol Ferry, Nuclear Power Plant and Korea Society in Danger

On 16 April 2014, a ferry carrying 476 people including 325 secondary school students capsized. Unfortunately only 174 passengers have been rescued, 284 people were found dead and 20 are still missing. Because of this accident, the families of the victims are not the only ones suffering, all of the people of Korea are sad. After the accident, the people felt anger more than sadness because of the immature government bungling the initial phase of the rescue.

The first target of the rescue was the captain and crew members who were also identified as the first group to escape from the sinking ferry, abandoning the ship and their passengers. President Park Geun-hye also said "The actions of the captain and some crew members were utterly incomprehensible, unacceptable and tantamount to murder," But now I want to ask “was this accident caused solely by the mistake of the captain and a few crews? Are there any other problems in the system? What has the government done to prevent this kind of accident before? Why couldn't the government save even just one person’s life?”
The government made a lot of mistakes. In the early stage of rescue, the government announced to the public that all the passengers were rescued but they retracted this after a few hours. Similar mistakes occurred almost every day. The government lost the people's trust. Moreover, the government’s response to the question “Why the government released all the communication between the ferry and the local maritime traffic control” was most frustrating. The answer was “… Then should we open everything?” What the families of the missing persons and the people do not know has not been released by the government. Even worse was the bureaucrats’ attitude when they said “let’s take a commemorative picture!” How can the people trust and support our government when the government is acting this way?

                              If the ferry ‘Korea’ sank, would the captain also escape and save himself?

The story of the captain of the Sewol ferry who abandoned the sinking ferry and its passengers has been seen as a symptom of Korean society. Is the large ship that is the entire Korean society sailing well? Will the captain of the ship bring us to our destination safely?

Many people are already likening of the captain of Sewol who was very irresponsible to the very immature government of President Park Geun-hye. Our vessel, Korea, might break down or sink soon. I am not alone in thinking that the captain and crew might run away, abandoning the passengers. It is a concern that is increasingly shared by many.

It seems there have been many signs of the sinking of ferry Sewol and its large number of missing passengers. Including the captain, many crew members of the South Korean vessel showed irresponsible actions after its capsizal largely due to some structural problems that most were temporary workers and that even some had not received any proper safety training. Most of all, suspicion arises that the ferry itself was old and worn but still operated while not eradicating its frequent mechanical and structural problems. The mate who revealed this problem quit the job for fear of a possible accident related to it.

If only there were a more stable structure where the crew members felt stronger responsibility in a firm employment situation and received an appropriate safety training… if only the early warnings of the mate and others were accepted and the old ferry was properly repaired or, if necessary, made out of use… if only the safety authority reinforced regulation and prevented the use and re-structuring of old vessel in advance… if only the Park Geun Hye administration operated its initially all-boasted safety policies and disaster responses as they were… if only… painful ‘if only..’ just follows.

                                        Government incompetency loses people’s trust and it is contagious.

The deep regret and sadness for the missing passengers of ferry Sewol, the fear that such a miserable event could happen to me, the feeling of lethargy for being unable to do something to help in front of such a disaster and, most of all, the huge rage against incompetent and irresponsible officials and the government. These all ends up with countless ‘if only’s in my head and sobers up when I reach the thought that ‘would this be only about the Sewol tragedy?’.

Would this be the only single event where we cannot do anything but to stand the damage of a failed macro technical system which we increasingly rely more on? No need to go far, we can just think about the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, 3 years ago. Of course it was outside Korea but the trauma from the accident repeats even stronger in this Sewol tragedy once again.

My eyes naturally then turn to the nuclear power plant in Gori, South Korea, which has been operated beyond its initially designed lifespan despite frequent failures. How can we believe this old and worn nuclear power plant will be safely operated by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. and the government? People who have seen the government incompetence and irresponsibility in responding to Sewol disaster can also tend to distrust safe operation of the nuclear plant by the government. Even now, as we speak, the regulatory authority has independence or not is in controversy.

The theory of ‘risk society’ of Ulrich Beck’, a German sociologist, which is frequently re-visited whenever such a disaster occurs, deals with the loss of trust in the management authority as well as the technological vulnerability of such a macro-system. So long as the Park administration’s baseline that regulation is like cancer and its official saying that ‘let’s take a photo’ in the scene of tragedy, we can hardly avoid a large-scale disaster.

                                    What to do with the worn Gori nuclear plant? No more if only…

As much we cannot trust what the government says in the Sewol disaster, we cannot also trust the government regarding nuclear development given our experiences. Has it become better now? Well. I’m not sure. Even though the persistent questioning at the National Assembly, the government has said no word ensuring the safety about the Gori nuclear power plant when its life was expanded. So people have continued to talk and talk to stop using the Gori plant now which has been operated even longer than ferry Sewol.

It may be put into this way, the Gori plant, is a simmering engine just before explosion mounted on the vessel called Korea. The captain of vessel Korea must stop the ship right now and turn off the engine with a red stop flash. However, from what I have seen until now, it concerns me whether Captain Park Geun Hye becomes the first to flee from the sinking ship. But we cannot afford another ‘if only’…’ again. Shouldn’t we do a mutiny or something?
Before I finish, I sincerely hope the deceased in the Sewol tragedy rest in peace.

                                                                  Written by Jae-kak, Han (Deputy Director:

2. Interview

This time, The Energy and Climate Policy Institute (ECPI) Interviewed Anabella Rosemberg, The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Even though five years have passed since she last visited Korea in 2009, there has still been no change in trade unions’ work on climate change or in just transition camping in Korea. At this time, ECPI wants to hear the voice of ITUC about important role of trade unions in tackling climate change and just transition on May Day

1) The latest scientific reports on climate change show the need for urgent action. How do the trade union movement positions itself regarding them?

The ITUC has welcomed the scientific reports and cannot do other thing that to join many in civil society calling for urgent action to prevent the worst scenarios from happening. It has also become urgent that trade unions move from acknowledgement the risks to action as well. This means calling on governments and companies to be up to the challenge of preserving the planet for future generations.

2) Don’t you see a risk for jobs if climate policies are implemented?

Science shows that the biggest risk today is inaction. Jobs and lives will be lost if we maintain our production systems as of today. The current economic system is not only harming our climate. Is also reducing a vast majority of workers to unemployment or precarious and unhealthy jobs. This is why we need to be part of the transformation.
This is not to say that the transition to sustainability will be easy. Of course many workers are today in sectors that could be considered pollutant. They should be at the heart of the industrial transformation and opportunities should be given to them –either changing their industry and maintaining them in the job or retraining and supporting them so they can move to a better one-. This is what we call a Just Transition. A process where workers have a say in shaping the low carbon future we need.

3) Are you succeeding?

Well, for the moment we face two huge barriers: the first one is the lack of ambition of governments to regulate and control emissions and therefore steer the transformation we need. The second is the reluctance from decision makers that tend to think that social issues are marginal to environmental policies. Unless we break those two barriers, our Just Transition agenda will remain a dream

4) What is your plan?

Our first responsibility is to mobilise trade unions and workers around the world on this agenda. This is why we are launching in May, in our Thirld Word Congress, the Unions4Climate campaign, where unions from national centers to the workplace will be taking on concrete commitments to protect our climate. We will also be maintaining our pressure at the international level, so that governments agree on a new, stronger climate deal in 2015, with Just Transition components in it.

5) And what do you think about Korean unions?

Korean unions have a huge challenge ahead. The fight for a just transition cannot be fought if unions are not given the space and right to organise the workers and defend their rights. A just transition does not only require investments in green sectors, as the Korean government seem to think. A just transition requires democratic decision making processes, where communities and unions influence the sectors which will grow, where they have a say on the quality of green jobs. The ITUC is working hard with its affiliates in Korea and everywhere else in the world so that unions are fully part of the transformation we need for us and for our children.

1. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Third World Congress will meet in Berlin, Germany 18-23 May 2014 
2. The Unions4Climate campaign aims at promoting concrete climate commitments from trade unions at all levels (workplace, local, federation, national). If you are interested, please contact

 - BIO of Ms. Anabella Rosemberg
Policy Officer on Environment and Occupational Health and Safety of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), She has coordinated the international trade union movement’s input to major environmental intergovernmental processes, notably the UNFCCC, since 2007.
She has led labour’s efforts at major UN summits like ‘RIO+20’, where the future sustainable development agenda was to be designed, developing an inside-outside strategy, where trade unions influenced simultaneously the official negotiating process as well as the parallel People’s Summit.

3. New Report

                            Implication of Community Energy and Energy Citizenship in Energy Transition

A thesis titled “Implication of Community Energy and Energy Citizenship in Energy Transition Process” was presented at the <2014 Spring Symposium of Korean Association for Environmental Sociology> by the Energy Climate Policy Institute(Lee Jung-pil, Han Jae-kak). This thesis aims to examine the meaning of ‘community energy ‘and ‘energy citizenship’ in the frame of ‘transition studies’, in which the socio-technical system(STS) is analyzed through the multi-level perspective(MLP), so that an implication on theories and practices for ‘energy transition’ in Korea can be derived from the thesis. The discussion guides for community energy and Energy citizenship, which were provided by Walker & Devine-Wright (2008) and Devine-Wright (2007) respectively, have been applied to the thesis. Carrying out the case analyses in Europe, especially the case of ‘energy cooperatives’ in the United Kingdom, the researcher has reviewed the potential of community energy and energy citizen ship to develop into a 'soft energy system' by replacing the 'hard energy system' as a 'Strategic Niche'.

The substance points of this thesis are as follows. An energy cooperative can be defined as a ‘creative space’ to manifest the energy citizenship, as well as a ‘constructive space’ where the energy citizenship can be formed. And it also can provide information and education, which is required to form a new and active energy citizenship, playing a role in suggesting a reliable interpretation on community energy on the basis of daily experiences of local residents. Furthermore, an energy cooperative gives opportunities of social learning, in which local residents examine how to produce and consume the energy in the community, and discuss if is possible to change the existing system to a more sustainable and eco-friendly one for the community, participating in the meeting in an equal manner. In reality, the energy cooperatives in the U.K has been made through such processes. And above all, the energy cooperative is directly related to the fundamental character of energy citizenship, in respect that it provides the opportunity for joint possession and management of renewable energy facilities in a direct manner. However, in the early stage where the energy cooperative does not exist, the germinating energy citizenship plays a role in creating an energy cooperative, and also the energy citizenship developing into an energy cooperative contributes to the growth of local community and energy cooperatives again. To make this positive feedback sustainable is a key task of strategic niche in energy transition.

However, an earnest effort, which is focused on analyzing the significance of energy cooperatives and predicting what roles it will play in a big frame of energy transition and in the trend of energy cooperatives, has not been made in Korea so far. Moreover, we need to pay attention to the fact that the energy cooperatives are closely connected with formation of energy citizenship. As founded in the competition process of action space of energy governance in the U.K, the distinction between community energy logic of government and community energy logic of civil society is derived from the difference regarding how they understand the energy citizenship and how positively they accept it. In the existing energy system, citizens have been regarded as only ‘passive consumers’, ‘opponents’ of renewable energy project, or ‘passive beneficiary’, who are ruled out from the decision making process. However, in order to carry out energy transition, an ‘energy citizenship’ shall be formed, in which the local residents actively participate in discussion and decision making processes, as well as they act as ‘active consumers and producers’ who seek energy efficiency and saving activities, including production of renewable energy. And now, the discussion on energy transition shall be focused on the process of forming new main agents for transition. Moreover, we need to move the norm-oriented discussion, which is contained in the concept of energy citizenship, to the field of concrete analysis and strategical practice.
                                                              Written by Jung-pil, Lee (Researcher:


     Energy and Climate Policy Institute
    [04207] 2nd FL, 14-15, Mapo-daero 14ga-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea
    Tel. 82-2-6404-8440 _ Fax. 82-2-6402-8439 _ E-mail. _ Website.