Protests over 5 pylons are raided

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Protests over 5 pylons are raided

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Policemen yesterday haul away a protestor from a high-voltage power line pylon construction site in Miryang, South Gyeongsang. Yesterday, 250 employees of Korea Electric Power Corporation and 2,000 police raided the area and tore down five structures used by protestors near the sites. By Song Bong-geun

The Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) tore down five structures used by people protesting its high-voltage power lines in Miryang, South Gyengsang, with support of the local government and police yesterday.

For several years, Kepco has been trying to erect 161 pylons to support the power lines to send electricity generated from the Singori reactor in Ulju County, Ulsan, to an electric substation in Changnyeong County, South Gyeongsang.

Construction of 52 towers in Miryang ground to a halt in September 2012 because of protests by local residents worried about the health effects of living near the power lines. It was resumed in October 2013.

But protesters set up structures they occupied near the sites of five pylons, insisting that the power lines nearby their village will cause cancer and other environmental damage and lower the value of local land.

Yesterday, 250 Kepco employees came into Jangdong Village, Miryang with 200 local government employees and more than 2,000 policemen. Thirty locals who oppose the construction and 120 supporters from religious associations and civic groups scuffled with the police and officials and some threw human waste at them.

The authorities went up a mountain to the structures and asked protestors to leave them voluntarily, but they refused. Some tied their bodies with chains and more than 20 nuns formed a human wall. The policemen dragged them out of the watchtowers.

The authorities found two cans of liquefied petroleum gas and took them out safely.

The Kepco employees, government officials and police dismantled five structures.

During the operation, two local residents were arrested for obstructing government workers but were released later yesterday. Some protestors were taken to hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

To watch out for possible human rights violations, 13 personnel from the National Human Rights Commission observed the operation.

After tearing down the structures, the Kepco employees set up fences around the sites to begin construction of the five remaining pylons.

“We are planning to finish the construction of pylons and power lines through the end of this year,” said an official of Kepco.

Religious circles were not comfortable with the idea of a raid before it occurred.

“They should not [tear down the structures] because it might cause unfortunate accidents,” said the Justice and Peace Committee of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Korea in a statement on Tuesday. “Violence will only bring bigger violence, and peace by the exertion of power is a fake peace.”

The National Council of Churches in Korea also filed a complaint to Commissioner General Lee Sung-han of the police on Tuesday.

BY KIM BONG-MOON AND HWANG SUN-YOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]



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