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South Korea: direct intervention delays dam construction

Friends of the Earth South Korea/Korean Federation of Environmental Movements (KFEM) staunchly opposes large development projects that threaten natural ecosystems, including the so called Four Major Rivers Restoration Project initiated by the Lee Myungbak government. This project has nothing to do with restoration. Its main feature is the construction of 20 new dams on the four largest rivers in Korea: the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers.
South Korea: direct intervention delays dam constructionThree Friends of the Earth South Korea activists on the pillar of the Han River lock gate. The banner says "Listen to what the people say".The US$19.8 billion project was first announced in December 2008 and the Lee government has been rushing to try and complete it by 2012. Construction began in November 2009, just five months after the plan was put forward. KFEM is one of many civil society groups anticipating severe damage to the rivers, and has campaigned constantly on this issue since the project was first proposed. They raised the issue of endangered species like ‘Aster altaicus var. Uchiyamae,’ a plant that is doomed to extinction by this project.

 

Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, visited South Korea in March 2010, and held a joint press conference with Friends of the Earth South Korea.

 

In July 2010, in an attempt to suspend construction, five Friends of the Earth South Korea activists accessed the dam building sites in the middle of the night: three of them climbed the 20m high pillar of the Han River lock gate and two of them took over the high-rise tower crane operation room at the Nakdong River. Friends of the Earth South Korea demanded that construction be suspended – at the very least during the rainy season – and that the government should accept their proposal to set up a reviewing committee in the National Assembly. The two activists had to retreat from the crane after 19 days because of an approaching typhoon, but the action by the rest on the pillar lasted for 41 days. The prosecution tried to detain the sit-in activists but they were eventually examined by police without being detained; KFEM will still be charged with trespass however.

 

KFEM is still struggling to stop the project and to find ways to restore the damaged rivers.

“I was very upset when I happened to see the riverbed dug up. I think the involvement of Friends of the Earth in this struggle was good for people who were too confused by the government’s advertisement to see the truth.”

 

FoE South Korea/KFEM

 

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