It’s not about pronunciationCHOI HYUN-JU
The author is a life economic news team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
RE100 refers to a campaign to switch 100 percent of the electricity used by companies to renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power from fossil fuels by 2050. It stands for “Renewable Energy 100 percent.”
London-based multinational non-profit organization the Clivet Group started the initiative in 2014. More than 340 companies, including Apple, Google and Intel, joined in the effort. In Korea, starting with SK in December 2020, more than 10 companies are participating.
While companies voluntarily join the campaign, qualifications are quite strict. The size of the company should be equivalent to the top 1,000 companies selected by Fortune magazine, and the annual electricity consumption of 100 gigawatt hours or more should be met. It had been hard for Korean companies to join RE100, as they purchase electricity only through Kepco when they should be able to directly have a contract with a renewable energy provider. In April, the Electricity Business Act was revised, allowing companies to make direct contracts with suppliers.
On Feb. 3, RE100 was mentioned at the first televised presidential debate. Ruling Democratic Party (DP) candidate Lee Jae-myung asked his rival Yoon Suk-yeol from the opposition People Power Party (PPP) about the country’s response to RE100. Yoon asked, “What’s that?” One side attacked Yoon for lacking qualifications to run for president for being ignorant about RE100, while the other side claimed that Lee didn’t know the proper pronunciation.
There is actually no proper way to pronounce RE100. In Britain, it is read, “RE one hundred.” CNN and other media call it as “Renewable Energy one hundred.” The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy referred to it as “RE baek [Korean for 100]” in the press release issued on Oct. 11, 2021, and then it was changed to “R-E baek” in the press release a day later.
A similar thing happened during the 19th presidential election campaign in 2017. Then-DP candidate Moon Jae-in said the numbers in Korean when he referred to 3-D printers and the 5G network. Opponents attacked him as being unfit for president as he didn’t read them in English.
Voters are not interested in how the English phrase is pronounced or what it means. They want to see the insight of the candidate on climate change — the reason for RE100 — as it is the mutual challenge the humanity is faced with. Citizens are tired of searching for the pronunciation of economic terms as they watch presidential debates.