Korean Farmers Fight 765 KV Transmission Project

The PATH fight has connected many of us to people fighting other transmission projects across the US and across the world.  Keryn has an account of a recent visit she and her Eastern Panhandle neighbors got from Hyosil Kim, a reporter for the Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh.

Ms. Kim has covered the continuing fight against a Korean Electric Power Company 765 kV line in southeastern South Korea and came to WV to learn about our experience here.

The Korean fight has a lot of parallels to the PATH fight.  One of the most striking connections is that the fight in Korea is being led by farmers who are protecting their land and their communities from an industrial project.  I spoke with farmers and land owners across central WV between 2009 and 2011, and I see a lot of the same themes in Korea.

This is from the NYT story linked above:

Now, a more modern Korea — in the form of imposing electrical power lines — is encroaching on the villages, including their burial grounds. The villages lie in the path of a major transmission route expected to distribute nuclear-generated electricity. Already towers are built along the spines of some nearby mountains, and 50 more are scheduled to be built in Miryang, some of them in the mountains.

But not if some of the villagers have anything to say about it. For the past two years, the villagers have staged protests that included a rare self-immolation, demonstrations in Seoul and a two-year sleep-in by older women who have built tents on the tops of mountains on the plots the utility company cleared for some of the towers. The women take breaks to go back to their homes, but most of the women sleep there in rotations, warmed in the winter by kerosene heaters. They fly Korean flags from their plastic-covered shelters.

“My family has lived here for 500 years, and all our ancestors are buried in these mountains,” said Sohn Hee-kyong, a 78-year-old rice farmer whose husband’s grave is nearby and who stays in the encampment. “I can’t let those steel monstrosities pass over here. Over my dead body.”

The other connection is that the Korean 765 kV line is about saving a dying nuclear industry in Korea, in the same way PATH was designed to save a dying coal industry.

The US media, including reporters in WV, try to characterize rural West Virginians as isolated and insular, just as the Korean media portrays farmers there as backward and stubborn.  Our connections to the fight in Miryang, South Korea makes it clear that we are connected on many, many levels.

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