Appeal for Support of KFEM's Protest Against the Four Rivers Project

Appeal for Support of KFEM(FoE-Korea)'s Protest Against the Four Rivers Project

Dear friends from all over the world,

I would like you to give special attention to the following protest actions in Korea and give your full support to our movement.

On a pitch-dark night at 3am on July 22, 2010, five KFEM activists in two teams sneaked into two new dam building sites; three climbed up 20 meter high top of a pillar of a lock gate of the Ipo Dam on the South Han River, and two took over the 40 meter high tower crane operation room at the Haman Dam on the Nakdong River with banners saying ’Listen to the People’s Voice to Stop the Four Rivers Project’. The activists were Park Pyung-soo (KFEM Goyang), Yum Hyung-cheol (KFEM Seoul), Jang Dong-bin (KFEM Suwon), Lee Hwan-mun (KFEM Jinju) and Choi Soo-young (KFEM Busan), all from the local KFEM offices based along the Han and Nakdong Rivers. KFEM, through their actions and voices, demanded that construction should be suspended at least during the rainy season, and the government should accept our proposal to set up a joint reviewing committee which includes government representatives, NGOs, religious leaders, professionals, and politicians to examine the relevance of the river ‘restoration’ project, and demanded the National Assembly to set up an inspection committee for the Project.

Due to a strong typhoon that was approaching, two activists at the Haman Dam on the Nakdong River were persuaded to descend from the tower crane on August 10. Though they had been arrested by the police as soon as they came down from the tower crane, the local court dismissed a warrant of arrest two days later.

As of August 23, the other three activists sitting in on the Ipo Dam have been struggling for 33 days under the torrid sun and torrents of seasonal storms with short food, water and communication means. They brought rice and water with them to sustain them for 15 days, and they were able to communicate with mobile phones in the beginning. As their stay on the top of the dam prolonged, their food, water and battery ran out and they are surviving with little amount of food and water which the developers of the dam agreed to provide. Their health became risky even though their morale is still very high. The Korean government has not moved at all to our appeal with no intention for dialogue. We feel extremely helpless.

KFEM has set up support camps near the dam construction sites, and has taken various actions in order to support the struggle. The support camps have become one of the most important bridgehead where the anti-project activists, citizens, students, and professionals gathered to express their support for the cause.

The Four Major Rivers Project was originally planned as a construction of canals that would connect the four largest rivers across the mountains in the middle of Korea. In order to construct the canal, the government planned to have many lock gates and dig out the river bed as deep as 6 meters and as wide as 200 meters so that big ships can pass. The Lee administration had declared that it gave up the canal project when it had been faced with strong people’s opposition in June 2008, and instead it announced the four major rivers restoration project in December 2008, which was not essentially very different from the original canal plan.

We oppose the Four Rivers Project, because the project is massively destroying Korea’s most important ecology resulting in unprecedented ecological calamity. The project destroys the habitat of endangered species, and destroys important wetlands where migratory birds along the East Asian-Australian Flyway on their way to breeding or wintering grounds. The project will definitely contaminate drinking water sources for the majority of the Korean people.

This project is simply a massive waste of national investment resources. A total of 22.2 trillion Won((USD 19 billion) was budgeted for the project, with which the government plans to build more than 20 new dams, and dig out 520 million cubic meters of sediments from 691 km long sections of the river bottoms. This project will only benefit construction companies and land speculators.

Many farmers living along the river area will be put under the threat of relocation. One of the oldest and largest organic farm clusters near Seoul were ordered to stop farming and remove from the area.

Because the project results in such a lot of environmental and social problems, the Korean government is faced with strong opposition from various sectors of society. A Buddhist monk burned himself to death in a protest against the project. The Korean National Council of Catholic Bishops issued a declaration to oppose against the project. Protestant priests staged hunger strikes. Reverend Sugyeong, a Buddhist monk, who has been fighting against the Saemangeum Tidal-flat Reclamation Project, set up a zen center on the river side of the Han River. Professors all over the country got together to form a protest front against the Four Rivers Project. We formed national fronts to fight against the project which comprised of environmental NGOs, religious groups, political parties and civil society organizations and staged massive rallies, sit-ins, press conferences, and one-person demonstrations.

Citizens, ecologists, religious leaders, politicians, artists, youths and students make endless pilgrimage to the construction sites and resolve opposition to this destructive project. According to a national survey reported on June 10, 2010, 79.4% of respondents are against the project. Local elections on June 2, 2010 resulted in a massive defeat of the ruling Grand National Party, which promotes the Four Rivers Project. The Korean government is literally surrounded with opposition from all sectors of Korean society.

The project had numerous procedural defects. It is the government that violated laws. The Environmental Impact Assessment reports of all four rivers and surrounding areas were made only within four months. Usually EIA takes at least one year in Korea where environmental impacts should be monitored at four distinctly different seasons.

The government violated the River Conservation Law. They also violated the Cultural Asset Law because they did not survey cultural assets properly. Environmental organizations brought the cases to the court.

We appeal to citizens, environmentalists, civil society activists, and intellectuals all over the world to extend full support to our struggle to stop the Lee Myung-bak administration for its unprecedented destruction of our environments. As an integral part of Friends of Earth, we particularly appeal to our member organizations to send letters of protests to the Korean government demanding suspension of the project, and to initiate dialogues with concerned parties. We would like to ask you to take the following actions:

(1) Write letters directly to President Lee Myung-bak, because it is he who can solely make a decision on this matter. Letters should be addressed to:

President Lee Myung-bak,
1 Chongwadaero, Chongro-ku, Seoul, 110-820 Korea
Telephone: 82-2730-5800
http://www.epeople.go.kr/ for petition

(2) Disseminate information of this massive ecological destruction all over the world, appeal for support. The Lee Myung-bak administration even makes bad use of this project as ‘green growth’ which provides countermeasures to climate change in the international society. The Four Rivers Project is simply a fake of ‘green growth’, blocking natural flow of the rivers with deforming concrete dams. Please let us be informed of your support so that we can be encouraged to fight.

(3) Send messages of support and encouragement to the three ecological warriors and KFEM.

We are convinced that you will extend warm and strong support to our struggle in safeguarding our nature and society. Thank you for your attention.

In solidarity,

Professor Seejae Lee

* Contact for further information:

Mr. Ma Yong-un, Director, Nature Conservation Team, ma@kfem.or.kr
Ms. Yangyi Wonyong, Director, KFEM Public Relations Service, yangwy@kfem.or.kr
Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM)/Friends of the Earth Korea
251 Nuha-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, 110-806, South Korea


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