KEPCO takes legal action against poor, elderly protestors

Posted on : 2012-07-06 15:30 KST Modified on : 2012-07-06 15:30 KST
Residents of Miryang have fought project that pushed them out with meager compensation
 June 15. (by Ryu Woo-jong
June 15. (by Ryu Woo-jong

Heo Jae-hyun and Choi Sang-won, staff reporters

The Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) filed a billion won (about US$880,000) damage suit against a group of residents in Miryang, South Gyeongsang province. KEPCO and the residents have been in a conflict for 7 years over the building of an extra-high voltage transmission tower.

KEPCO submitted the case against three residents to Miryang Municipal Court, on July 2. The residents, Lee Nam-woo, 71, Yoon Yeo-rim, 75, and Seo Jong-bum, 63, have been protesting the tower’s construction.

KEPCO claimed that, “Construction was supposed to be resumed on June 7. That was impossible because of the residents’ strong opposition. They caused tremendous damage.”

Besides the damage suit, KEPCO filed an injunction for prohibition of protests against the construction, which if violated, would impose hefty fines on the residents. On June 29, they sought fines for 7 residents, including Kwon Young-gil, 75, in the Miryang Municipal Court. On July 5, they did the same thing against 6 other residents, including Kwak Jung-sup, 66.

If the injunction is applied, each implicated resident would have to pay one million won (about US$880) a day, from June 7, a scheduled date for resumption. KEPCO added, “If needed, we are going to sue other residents too.”

Miryang resident Lee Nam-woo, who had sued for damages, said with anger, “KEPCO damaged our own home by building the transmission tower, and now they want to take all of my life savings.”

So far, KEPCO sued or applied injunctions against 15 residents, who are all in their 60s or 70s and are all farmers or unemployed.

“I can’t work because of my illness. If they charge me one million won a day, for me that means I should just die,” said Kwak Jung-sup, who suffers from complications related to diabetes. “I just want to pour gasoline on my body and burn myself.”

Lee Gye-sam, director general of the Residents’ Committee Commemorating the Death of Lee Chi-wu, a resident who self-immolated last January at the age of 74, said, “Lee Chi-wu took his own life in protest of the construction. His death was not long ago. How can KEPCO file a lawsuit instead of reflecting on what they’ve done?”

A source from KEPCO said, “We had to resume construction on June 7 but the residents have been interrupting it. We couldn’t help but take legal action against them.” KEPCO has refused to explain the details of their claimed loss of one billion won.

KEPCO has been building transmission towers around the Miryang area, Sanoe, Bubuk, Danjang and Sangdong townships, under the Act on Electric Source Development. According to the law, KEPCO can expropriate land whenever they need a site for electric installation.

The residents have been fighting for KEPCO to cancel the construction, citing the meager compensation they’ve been offered and the danger of electromagnetic waves.

After Lee Chi-wu’s death last January, KEPCO paused construction for a while. On July 3, however, they brought an excavator and building supplies by helicopter to the potential site, 500 meters up Jung Mt., Sangdong township. On the same day, some of the construction workers tried to enter the construction site in Danjang township.

A source from KEPCO said, “Democratic United Party lawmaker Cho Kyoung-tae is preparing to revise the Act on Electric Source Development. We have no plan to force the construction.”


Translated by Kim Ji-seung, Hankyoreh English intern


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