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Elderly people injured in pylon protest

Clashes with police as Korean high voltage project restarts

<p>Protesters gather outside KEPCO's offices in Seoul</p>

Protesters gather outside KEPCO's offices in Seoul

  • John Choi, Seoul
  • Korea
  • May 21, 2013
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Three elderly people were injured while protesting against the construction of electricity pylons which resumed yesterday in Miryang, south west of Seoul. The three, all in their 70s, had to be taken to hospital for treatment after clashing with police.

Construction of the 765kw pylons has been delayed for eight months after a chorus of protests from environmentalists and local activists, who claim the 140m towers will damage the environment and emit harmful electromagnetic waves.

One campaigner, 73-year-old Lee Chi-woo, who would have had pylons erected on his property, immolated himself and died in protest in January 2012.

KEPCO, the government-run power supplier, plans to erect a total of 161 towers running from the Singori nuclear power plants in Busan to the southeast of Korea. Of the total, 52 of the pylons would be in Myrang county.

Some activists had proposed laying the high voltage wires underground. But the electricity company, KEPCO, dismissed this option as too expensive and time consuming and decided instead to continue with its original plan.

When news spread yesterday of the injuries to the villagers in Miryang, around 30 people staged an impromptu press conference outside KEPCO's headquarters in Seoul, demanding an immediate halt to the resumed construction.

Reverend Yang Jae-sung, co-chairperson of the Religion and Environment Forum, said, “KEPCO and the police are enforcing the construction by force, contrary to the will of villagers who want dialogue and compromise. The company should listen to the voice of villagers and review the plan.”

In Miryang Father Vincentius Kim Jun-ha, who has helped coordinate the local protest campaign, said: “It’s a pity that old people were injured. However, the villagers seem to never step back.

”We wanted to stop them from protesting, but their will is so firm. They have suffered too long and feel humiliated by the company.”

A response came from Kim Tae-yong, project manager at KEPCO. “Currently in South Korea, power supply is not enough and the construction is essential,” he said. “I feel sympathy with the villagers’ position. We will try our best to settle the problem with them. We will also pay extra attention to prevent any more injury to villagers at the construction site.” 

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