No more death for Odisha people who are opposed to POSCO project!
On the evening of March 2nd – a Saturday – four villagers died and two were injured from bombs which exploded at their home. They were from a village that is against a project of the steel-making company, POSCO. Those who are opposed to the POSCO project assert that the bomb were used as an attack by supporters of the project against the protestors, whereas police have said that the anti-POSCO villagers were probably making bombs to target the police and some accidentally exploded.
We, the Korean civil society, express our deep condolence for the families of the victims as well as the Odisha villagers who are concerned about future cases of potential violence. We emphasize that there should be no further victims caused by the conflict over the POSCO project which has been continuous for the last seven years.
The conflict has been taking place continuously since 2005, when POSCO and the Odisha state government signed an agreement on a 12 million tonne-a-year-plant that includes a steel plant, a port and other infrastructures. In particular, it remains questionable whether villagers of the project area gave their free, prior, and informed consent, and it was made of their own volition and prior to the project starting. Environmental concerns over the impact the plant will have are also legitimate and in need of attention.
Anti-POSCO villagers have been suffering greatly due to the project. They have been protesting against POSCO, and as a result, have been blocked by the police and live in fear of when the police might come to destroy their homes and land. They are unable to devote themselves to their living. Up until now, five have been killed, including the four mentioned above, and the injuries have been countless.
POSCO’s stand on the position is that there should not be any issues as the project has been put forward in a legitimate way. However, there is no doubt that POSCO is by passing the rights of indigenous peoples and sustainable development – a hot issue in the international community – as it continues to push forward a project that primarily serves the company’s agenda. Because of this, four more have died, and the Korean government as well as POSCO should not ignore this matter or handle it in a dismissive way as they have been doing so far.
First, we urge POSCO to take responsibility and accountability for this matter. Even though POSCO was not directly involved in all these instances of violence and breaches of human rights made against villagers up until now, at the end of the day, it is, as POSCO asserts, a project of POSCO, by POSCO and for POSCO, and therefore the company’s name will inevitably be brought up whenever these kinds of conflicts happen. It is only reasonable for a company, from the moment it plans and launches a project for development, to take responsibility for the project. And so, we strongly urge POSCO to take responsibility for the effects caused by its project and take the necessary step to end the conflict before it confronts a more serious situation which will attract attention from the rest of the world. If POSCO still continues to blame the Odisha state government and anti-POSCO villagers as they have done so far, it will have to bear a different level of pressure and condemnation than before.
We ask for the Korean government to take responsibility also, for it is not true that a business project of a private company is unrelated to the government. After all, it is commonly known that the Korean government has made an intervention on the appointing of the POSCO CEO since the National Pension Corp is a major shareholder of the company. The Korean President has even asked the Indian government for speedy propulsion to help launch this mega project.
The Korean government needs to take the constant conflict caused by the 12 billion US dollar project seriously. It has been a year since a number of children lying down on the ground in a scorching hot summer to show their opposition to the POSCO project were reported to the world. And yet the Korean government agency related to the project has continued to request the Indian government to help gear up the project. This is in spite of civil societies including India, Norway, the Netherlands and Korea having recently submitted a complaint against POSCO and some stakeholders of POSCO in accordance with the OECD guidelines, and voicing expectations of having the Korean government investigate the complaint. It is a good opportunity for the new government of President Park to show their attitude in regards to respecting human rights and sustainable environment before the international community.
There should be no more people dying or being injured due to the POSCO project or any other project of a Korean corporation. Anti-POSCO villagers have not demanded more monetary compensation as POSCO says, but are simply trying to protect the land they have inherited from their ancestors. If land acquisition is forcibly carried out with violence against the villagers who will never leave their land until they die, a bigger, more tragic situation will be sure to take place. And so, before that happens, the government and POSCO should handle the current situation properly and positively.
We, the Korean civil society, will put all our efforts into making POSCO and the Korean government address this matter thoroughly and sincerely.
1. Advocates for Public Interests Law
2. Corporate For All
3. Energy & Climate Policy Institute
4. GongGam, Human Rights Law Foundation
5. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
6. Korean Federation for Environmental Movement
7. Korean House for International Solidarity
8. Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights
9. National Association of Professors for Democratic Society
10. People’s Solidarity for Social Progress