The Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) has recently filed a 100K dollar lawsuit against a small population of senior citizens in Miryang (Milyang), Gyeongnam Province.
Nam-woo Lee (71), Yeo-lim Yoon (75), Jong-bum Seo (63) and three other senior citizens have been sued by KEPCO because they participated in demonstrations against the KEPCO-lead construction of cable towers in their area. KEPCO filed the lawsuit on the 2nd at the Changwon district court, with the complaint ‘Heavy financial losses due to obstruction of construction by the Miryang elderly community since June 7th 2012′.
KEPCO has also added to their ‘fine bomb’ by increasing penalization: a request for injunction, ‘Inhibition of Construction Obstruction’. On the 29th of June, KEPCO requested this injunction against Yung-gil Kwon (75) and 7 other senior citizens, citing ‘Since June 7th, because they caused us a delay in the construction of the cable tower, we will have to demand a 1000 dollar-per-day additional fine towards each person charged.’ KEPCO also revealed that they had requested the same against Jeong-sup Gwak (66) and 6 other senior citizens of Miryang. An anonymous representative of KEPCO added that they would continue to do so against more of the Miryang population if the obstruction continued.
Nam-woo Lee, one of the elderly who is at the heart of this situation, commented angrily “Our small homes didn’t have much to begin with, but KEPCO had already taken those away when they decided to build the cable towers here. Now they are trying to strip us bare of what little possessions we have left.”
Until now, a total of 15 senior citizens of Miryang have been held responsible by KEPCO. Many of them are between the ages of 60 to 70, and they either work as local farmers or are jobless due to their old age. Jeong-sup Gwak, one senior who cannot work due to various illnesses including diabetes, said “Even now, I am able to live under a roof only thanks to my neighbors. I have no money at all, yet KEPCO tells me to pay a thousand dollars per day; I am facing a death sentence”. “I just want to douse myself in gasoline and commit suicide,” he added. Gye-sam Lee, director of the ‘Self-Immolated Chee-woo Lee Commission’, criticized KEPCO, saying “The elderly Chee-Woo Lee committed self-immolation mere weeks ago in opposition of this construction, but KEPCO has the nerve to disregard his death and come back this soon, only to harass us even more.”
A KEPCO insider explained that “From June 7th onward, we were supposed to have renewed an already ongoing construction of the cable towers, but because the people of Miryang continued to prevent us from doing so, we had no choice but to file the lawsuit against them.” But he refused to say how KEPCO’s financial losses due to this situation added up to the high sum of 100K dollars. Another KEPCO insider eventually revealed that the 100K included the overdue construction machinery rental fees and labor fees that had accumulated during the 300 days ‘obstruction’.
KEPCO started construction of the cable towers in July of 2011. Using the Electric Source Development Promotion Act, they were able to start the projects bypassing the approval of the Miryang land owners, and soon they had already set up construction sites in various locations of Miryang, such as Sanoe-myeon, Bubuk-myeon, Danjang-myeon, and Sandong-myeon. However, the residents of Miryang fought back, as they came to understand that the project gave them little in return and only increased harm; the compensation was insufficient and there was to be a constant danger of being electrocuted while living in the vicinity of the cable towers. In January 2012, Miryang resident Chee-woo Lee set himself on fire and committed suicide in an act of opposing KEPCO’s projects.
The construction project came to a halt for 3 months after Lee’s death, but it was reinstated on the 3rd of July. KEPCO used a helicopter to place an excavator and other machinery onto the Sandong-myeon construction site, 500m above sea level. The very same day, KEPCO workers tried to re-enter the Danjang-myeon construction site but to no avail.
A KEPCO representative commented “Recently, the Democratic Party congressman Kyoung-tae Cho decided pursue in the revision of the Electric Source Development Promotion Act. Therefore, at this time, we have no intention to reinstate the construction project by force.”