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The Peninsula

Pursuing ambitious targets, the government forgets its constituents

Published June 24, 2021
Author: Korea View

What Happened

  • President Moon’s Green New Deal calls for a USD 43 billion plan to build the world’s largest wind power plant by 2030.
  • Over the past few months, there have been strong protests against installing renewable energy generators, especially massive wind turbines in places such as Busan and Mokpo due to environmental concerns.
  • Resistance to offshore wind farms by fishermen is also slowing down the construction of offshore wind farms in Ulsan.

Implications: Pursuing ambitious targets, the South Korean government often forgets to build consensus among constituents who might be immediately affected by the implementation of its policies. Case in point, the government’s effort to promote domestic renewable energy generation faces pushback from locals who live and work around locations earmarked as sites of wind farms. Fishermen claimed that offshore wind farms could damage marine habitats and that high-voltage submarine cables could obstruct the spawning and migration of fish stocks. The government’s failure to preemptively allay such concerns creates delays that add to the cost of transitioning from carbon-based power generation. A similar situation led to a year-long negotiation between the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy and fishermen of South Jeolla Province who resisted the establishment of an offshore wind farm in the region.

Context: The government’s failure to communicate its energy policy is also reflected in the public’s attitude towards nuclear energy. Despite South Korea’s long history of embracing nuclear power, domestic anti-nuclear sentiments have grown since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and the 2013 scandal over fake safety certificates for domestic nuclear equipment. Public distrust of nuclear power has persisted despite many systemic improvements that have been implemented since the Fukushima disaster and the 2013 scandals. This can be partly attributed to the government’s insufficient communication on the safety of the country’s nuclear power plants. Similar distrust may be preventing the government from going ahead with its Green New Deal.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sean Blanco, Marina Dickson, and Jina Park. Picture from the flickr account of  Michael Mellinger

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