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Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific (FoE APac) is very much concerned that the Korean government is distorting the true consequences of the Korean Four Rivers Project to win a contract for a similar project in Thailand. It is also regrettable that South Korean environmental NGOs who have been critical of this project were described as “unpatriotic” and “anti-state” in a Korean Cabinet meeting last January 15th.

When FoE APac visited the Four Rivers Project construction sites on the South Han River on 30th of June, 2011, it was clear that the project had damaged the river ecology, blocking the river flow by constructing dams, and making the serpentine river a straight one. Despite the information circulated by the Korean government, we believe the dams cannot prevent floods or provide clean water.

Construction went ahead despite requests from FoE APac for the suspension of the project. We learned that the Korean government is now chasing another contract for a similar water management project in Thailand, despite the ecological impact of the Four Rivers Project. The Four Rivers Project was nothing but the destruction of the river ecosystem due to unnecessary construction, which was obfuscated by supposed benefits such as flood control, improvement of water quality, securing water supply, job creation and so on.

Thailand is our neighbor in Asia Pacific, with high riverine biodiversity, and we are concerned that the model of the Four Rivers Project may cause severe damage to Thailand’s rivers and ecosystem, and neighboring countries on the Mekong.

FoE APac is also worried about the suppression of civil society voices in Korea in this regard. Last January 15th when there was a Cabinet meeting, President Myeongbak Lee said that it is obviously “unpatriotic” and “anti-state” for some NGOs to hinder efforts by Korean companies to win the Thailand contract. This is an attempt to politically constrain our collaborative response – the natural duty of environmental organizations – to environmental problems, whose impacts spread beyond national borders.

We further request that the Korean government stop citing the Four Rivers Project as a great achievement and stop promoting this ecosystem-destruction model to other Asia Pacific countries. We appeal to the President of South Korea not to block the voice of civil society who are searching for the truth. FoE APac stands with Korean civil society.