The Korea Electric Power Corp. resumed work on the controversial high-voltage transmission towers in Milyang, South Gyeongsang Province on Monday amid strong opposition from residents.
KEPCO restarted construction at six sites after eight months, but work was halted at four sites by early afternoon due to protesting residents.
The project was approved by the government in November 2007 to link the Shin-Kori nuclear power plant in Ulsan to a substation in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, through a 765-kilovolt transmission line across 90.5 kilometers with 161 towers.
Although construction on 109 towers has been completed, the construction of 52 towers in the Milyang area has been delayed due to residents' opposition that arose from the outset.
Residents opposing the construction of power transmission towers barricade the path to a construction site in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province on Monday. (Yonhap News)
In July 2008, Milyang residents held the first rally calling for the project to be scrapped, and in the following year the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission formed a committee to resolve the issue. However, the conflict between KEPCO and the residents has continued, causing work to be halted 11 times, and delaying its completion by more than three years from the original deadline of December 2010.
The five-year long conflict peaked in January last year when a 74-year-old resident died after setting himself on fire in protest. In addition, the residents filed a criminal complaint against three KEPCO officials earlier this year.
The project's opponents claim that the transmission line could have detrimental affects on health citing a 2003 World Health Organization report warning of possible carcinogenic effects of such facilities.
Although KEPCO has increased compensation to be given to those living in the area, the residents have rejected the company's offers and continue to oppose the project calling for the transmission lines to be installed underground.
KEPCO's plans include providing relocation subsidies for residents, building the country's largest solar power facilities under the lines, and offering compensation to offset the fall in land prices for areas within 94 meters of the towers.
For its part, KEPCO has rejected the idea of building an underground transmission line saying it would take 2 trillion won and 10 years to carry out such a project, and that the technology to build 765-kilovolt transmission lines has not been developed.
The state-run power company has also rejected the alternative of lowering the transmission line's capacity to 345 kilovolts, saying that the change would require two additional substations in Milyang driving up the cost of the project.
KEPCO's decision to go ahead with the project has also incited criticism from the political arena.
"The construction should be postponed and the (negotiations) need to be carried out in a compact manner. (I) feel that KEPCO needs to change its attitude," Rep. Cho Hae-jin of the ruling Saenuri Party said in a radio interview on Monday.
Cho added that he expected additional negotiations to take one month at the most, and that residents and construction workers clashing at the site could give rise to a dangerous situation.
The main opposition Democratic Party has also criticized the power company, and the new Park Geun-hye administration for failing to resolve the issue.
"KEPCO should halt the construction and respond to the residents' rightful requests by opening talks to avoid further casualties," DP spokeswoman Rep. Bae Jae-jeung said. She added that the government is also at fault for siding with KEPCO, and questioned the new administration's ability to resolve differences.
"(The party) calls on the Park Geun-hye administration to be more tolerant than the Lee Myung-bak government, and show its ability to solve problems through communication rather than force."
By Choi He-suk ( firstname.lastname@example.org
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