REPUBLIC OF KOREA: Government authorities and KEPCO should halt their project until genuine consultation with Miryang residents directly affected by power transmission development is conducted.

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1 Nov 2013
[International Secretariat]

The government authorities and Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO)  should provide adequate information on the human rights impact  of the KEPCO project, ensure genuine consultation with local villagers directly affected by the project, and provide them with  adequate compensation or alternatives for any lost housing or livelihoods.

The  KEPCO project  to  transmit  electricity  from  Busan  power station  to  Seoul envisages sixty-nine 765kV power transmission towers and 39.15 km long power lines to pass through or in close proximity to 5 villages in Miryang in south east South Korea.

The villagers claim that consultation in 2005 prior to government approval of the project in November 2007 did not involve those most directly affected, and did not provide sufficient information for them to participate effectively. Relevant regulations required KEPCO to consult and compensate only a narrow definition of those directly affected, that is owners of land within 30m of a transmission tower, or 3m of the power line. KEPCO informed lawmakers that 0.6% of the population of the affected villages participated in the consultation, whereas residents from a larger area are already suffering the economic consequences  of the impending development and have received no reassurances over their fears for health and environmental impacts. Residents told Amnesty International  they were not  informed  of  the consultation meetings. Those who attended said they were unclear of the  importance of  the meetings, were given a one-sided picture  and left  with  the  impression that  the development was small scale with minimal negative impact.

Internal KEPCO reports from 2010 on the potential effects on the health of people living  in  the vicinity  of other 765kV  transmission towers were made available to National Assembly members in 2013 but the findings were not made public. No such impact assessments were made available prior or during a consultation process.

The villagers have a right to full and timely disclosure of information on how the proposed transmission towers will affect their human rights. In addition, risks to the population should be identified through an inclusive process with villagers and take their views and their knowledge into account. An independent and impartial human rights and environmental impact assessment of the proposed KEPCO project should be conducted and the findings made public.

After her recent visit to South Korea from 29 May to 7 June 2013,  United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya pointed  to  the  serious challenges faced by individuals  who try  to  exercise their legitimate right to protest against large-scale development projects such as the local residents in Miryang.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned that villagers, mostly in their 60s and 70s, protesting against KEPCO project are facing harassment and threats of arrests from the police. The arbitrary use of police force to deny access of villagers and their supporters to sit-in sites are unwarranted restrictions on freedom of expression  and assembly. Since reopening of the construction on 1 October 2013,  14  people including villagers and human rights defenders have been arrested on provisions such as ‘obstruction  of business’ in  the Criminal Code which  may be used to  unduly criminalize those exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Two individuals remain in detention while the others have been released.

Amnesty International calls on the government and KEPCO to:

  • Halt  the  project  until  a  genuine consultation  is  undertaken and  the  risk assessment is completed.

Amnesty International also calls on the government to:

  • Ensure that laws and measures such as the Electric Source Development and Promotion Act (1978)  that may affect residents undergo a process of genuine consultation with those directly affected.
  • Ensure that  those  negatively affected  receive adequate compensation or alternatives for their lost housing or livelihood.
  • Release immediately all those detained for peacefully protesting against the project.

24 October 2013

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