Energy and Climate Policy Institute

작성일 : 14-11-17 15:50
Enerzine 38. The Takeoff of “Climate Justice Action” in South Korea
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조회 : 12,592 No 38.pdf  [1741]

As everyone knows, the history of nuclear power in South Korea started with Kori Nuclear Power Plant in 1977. During the military regime, the government announced that it would build an “electricity factory” for modernization, and many people were silently evicted from their own lands. The people’s lack of awareness of the huge impact of the nuclear power plant, and the tyrannical politics, enabled the development of the nuclear power plant, but times have changed.


1. Columns

                                      The Takeoff of “Climate Justice Action” in South Korea

“Solidarity for Climate Justice in Korea” was officially established in 2011. In 2007, a joint participation group consisting of environmental groups, trade unions, farmers’ groups, and a progressive party participated in COP 13 in Bali, Indonesia. After that, these same groups participated in COP 14 to 16. On the strength of these actions, “Solidarity for Climate Justice in Korea,” which was a very slack network, was launched. After the Fukushima nuclear accident, however, the solidarity concentrated on actions for nuclear phase-out rather than for climate justice. Naturally, activities on climate justice have been stagnant for a while in South Korea.
At present, however, many networks are preparing for COP 20 (Lima, Peru), and already, much interest has been shown in COP 21 (Paris, France), which will be one of the most important UN meetings on climate change. Many environmental groups and NGOs are discussing an action strategy for the COP. Energy and Climate Policy Institute for Just Transition (ECPI), one of the members of Solidarity for Climate Justice in Korea, is also planning for COP 20. ECPI will be with the camp of International Climate Justice, which has tried to achieve a new climate change protocol that actively reflects climate justice principles. Moreover, ECPI will specifically focus on two things while contemplating COP 20. One interesting event was People's Climate March, which was held in New York last September. It made people realize that the public’s action for climate justice had grown more heated than in Copenhagen. Many organizations and people in various spectrums participated in the event, and it could generally be evaluated as a positive development for the climate justice action. Moreover, not only place-based grassroots movements but also activities and prospects of establishing trade unions are drawing interest. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy will contribute to the discourse on just transition, which has been raised by international trade unions.
Another matter is the peculiar and universal character of Peru and the continentalism of South America, which will host COP this year. South America has contributed to the ecological and climate justice movement in the philosophical and practical aspects. The voices of struggle from various areas in Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina will give much power to the flow of the international climate justice movement beyond the COP.
It is not sure that the COP will succeed, but it should not be neglected and regarded as a playground of the ruling class. All people of the world will cry out: “Resist! Reclaim! Restructure!”

Written by Jung-pil, Lee (Researcher:

                            Great Victory from the Citizens' Referendum:
                        The Residents’ Revolt on Nuclear Policy Has Started!

Last October 9, the residents of Samcheok City in Gangwon Province expressed their intention with regard to the nuclear power plant construction proposition: they voted it down in an autonomous citizens’ referendum. Even though the National Election Commission rejected the provision of support for this referendum, almost half of the citizens of Samcheok participated in the voting, and some 85% of the 28,867 residents who cast ballots said “no.” Although the government insists that this referendum has no legal force, its legitimacy cannot be denied.
As everyone knows, the history of nuclear power in South Korea started with Kori Nuclear Power Plant in 1977. During the military regime, the government announced that it would build an “electricity factory” for modernization, and many people were silently evicted from their own lands. The people’s lack of awareness of the huge impact of the nuclear power plant, and the tyrannical politics, enabled the development of the nuclear power plant, but times have changed. The 1980s’ experience of democratization made the people not conform to the government, which took away their living sites and their right to live. In the early 1990s, starting with the resistance of the residents of Anmyeondo Island, who burned a police substation as they struggled against the riot police, there has been an intense social debate and struggle on the unilateral nuclear power plant construction plan. The situation is no longer the same as that when the military regime was in power.
When the participatory government was still in power (2003-2008, Roh Moo-Hyun administration), it chose a low-level nuclear-waste site by instigating competition between regions through the offer of financial compensation. It seemed successful in overcoming the people’s struggles, albeit temporarily, but every day, hundreds of tons of underground water poured into the radioactive-waste site, which the government spent a huge amount of money to build, and to this day, there is a dispute about whether the site should be used or should not be used. The reason that this situation happened was that the government did not conduct a satisfactory and basic geological survey before establishing the nuclear-waste site because it concentrated only on implementing a disincentive for the people’s struggle. Besides, there is a question as to how long the strategy, which raises receptivity only through financial compensation, might work. The facts that Struggle of Grandmothers said that no money is needed for the construction of an anti-transmission tower in Miryang and the loss of popularity of the citizens’ referendum in Samcheok due to the economic effects of constructing and operating a nuclear power plant show that the aforementioned strategy is no longer as valid as it was before.
Above all things, the Fukushima nuclear accident changed everything. As the nuclear disaster happened at a place that was very close to South Korea, it awakened the South Korean society. Now, 23 nuclear power plants are being operated in South Korea, including the Kori and Wolseong nuclear power units, which have been operated for more than 30 years, but their safety is not certain. Moreover, so many accusations and exposures have occurred in succession, such as the concealment of the accident that occurred in the power plant, the fact that thousands of substandard parts with fake warranties were installed in the reactors, and even that certain employees working on the reactors were smoking marijuana. As a result, the opposition to the nuclear power policy has snowballed not only among the people living near the old nuclear power plants but nationwide, and the citizens’ referendum in Samcheok represents the zenith of such opposition.
The victory of the citizens’ referendum is very important for a safe future and for the democracy in South Korea because it showed that pushing forward a policy of nuclear power plant expansion in the country is no longer easy, and that the central government could not drive a nuclear policy unilaterally, ignoring the local residents’ opinion on the matter. Moreover, it will be recorded as one more victory in the struggle for a nuclear-free Northeast Asia, a struggle that spans Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Written by Jae-kak, Han (Deputy Director:

2. New Book

                                          『Dangerous Living Together:
                        Forced Nuclear Power and the Naissance of Riskscapes』

Dangerous Living Together is a book about tracking the riskscapes caused by nuclear power plants. Riskscapes may therefore be understood as landscapes of multi-layered and interacting risks that represent both the materiality of real risks and the perceptions, knowledge, and imaginations of the people living in that landscape and who continuously shape and reshape its contours through their daily activities (Detlef Muller-Mahn, 2012, The Spatial Dimension of Risk).
The book’s authors met the local residents living around four nuclear power plants — Koro, Wolseong, Uljin, and Yeonggwang — and visited Miryang, which developed as an anti-nuclear-power movement through the fight against power tower construction, to seek the riskscapes created by the nuclear power plant system. The naissance of riskscapes, which were recreated by the people’s voices, was a unilaterally forced national project that could not obtain any information about the real face of the hazards of nuclear power plant construction in the country, and any right for or against nuclear power. After the local peoples realized the dangerousness of nuclear power plants, the only thing that they could do was to accept the meager money offered to them by the government as security for the “danger” posed by the nuclear power plant to their lives and well-being, which was certainly not a distant reality. The people who operated the nuclear power plants took advantage of the people’s acquiescence to subordinate the local communities politically, socially, and economically. As a result, the local peoples are now suffering not only from the risk of a nuclear power plant accident but also from political, social, and economic risks, and it is not easy for them to escape from such situation. Moreover, a large and centralized energy system such as the nuclear power system creates a distinctive riskscape that transcends the locals, caused by the connection of high-voltage electric lines. This means that the risks spread with the electricity generated by nuclear power plants. Miryang has struggled for more than 10 years on the high-voltage power line issue, and has also reported with a pain-filled voice that the energy system is based on inequality.
Kori Nuclear Power Plant is situated in Kori Village, a place gifted with the beauty of nature. Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant and a nuclear-waste storage site were built in Gyeongju, which is known as the site of the “Millenium Culture” of South Korea. Uljin Nuclear Power Plant, the only purse string of the local society, has degenerated, and the local people living around Yeonggwang Nuclear Power Plant have been fighting to be given an emergency exit route (i.e., there is only a two-lane road at present) for more than 30 years. The local people living together with these riskscapes said, “The people living in the major cities and who are using electricity without any risk should be awakened.”

Bo-ah, Lee (Researcher,

3. Act ON
                                          “Energy Citizenship and Energy Governance:
                                      Focus on Energy Cooperation” International Seminar

Energy Climate Policy Institute held an international seminar titled “Energy Citizenship and Energy Governance: Focus on Energy Cooperation” in The SSK Research Team of Catholic University, in cooperation with the Seoul metropolitan government.
Petrick Devine-Wright, a professor at the University of Essex, presented the concept of energy citizenship with a case of energy transition in the UK; Daan Creupelandt, manager of RESCoop-202020, presented the status of renewable-energy cooperation in the EU; and Park Jin-Hee, director of ECPI, presented the state and future of energy cooperation in South Korea. After the presentations, a panel debate on renewable-energy cooperation and energy citizenship was held. The participants sympathized with the energy citizens, who used to be only energy consumers but who later became energy citizens through their participation not only in energy saving but also in energy production through the energy cooperation in South Korea.
ECPI will continuously research on the formation and development of energy citizenship in South Korea.

Written by Eun-suk, Son (Researcher,

                                Symposium in Commemoration of the 5th Anniversary of ECPI
                                -10 years from Buan’s strife and civil consensus,
                                        energy governance in South Korea still has a long way to go-

There has been a head-on collision and conflict on the national energy basis plan, coercive nuclear power plant plan, and high-voltage power line construction. Moreover, there is a fear that energy governance is becoming weaker in South Korea. This is demonstrated by several cases, such as the national government’s denial of the legal binding force of Samcheok’s referendum and the life extension of Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant Unit No. 1 without obtaining the local residents’ agreement.
With this situation, ECPI held a symposium in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of its founding, and tried to find a way to establish better energy governance in the country.
This seminar covered the meaning of the present energy governance and of the improvement issues motivated by the “civil consensus on the future of the country’s electricity policy,” which took a lesson from Buan’s strife on the nuclear-waste storage site in 2003, and which attempted in 2004 to present an alternative governance model for the electricity policy, led by Center for Democracy in Science Technology of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. The symposium participants contend that if the energy paradigm’s transition and energy governance with the participation of the people, which the people pushed for 10 years ago, were even only partly realized, many of the conflicts occurring now, such as those related to the high-voltage power line in Miryang and to the publicity standstill on used nuclear fuel, might have been prevented. The symposium participants also pointed out that the need for energy governance is intensifying, which concerns energy transition and nuclear phase-out as a mainstream, and the formation of alternative-energy citizenship.

Written by Kim, Hyunwoo (Researcher,


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