Minju Kim for GEYK

Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), a government-funded company, announced this week that it will start building two new coal power plants in Indonesia. The decision comes as numerous experts express concerns over its environmental impact and profitability.

On June 30th, KEPCO held an emergency board meeting and agreed to push through the highly controversial JAWA Coal-fired power plant unit 9, 10 project. KEPCO will build two coal plants in the Banten region,which will emit 250 million tons of Greenhouse Gases (250 million MtCO2e) during their lifespan.

This 3.5 billion dollar project is headed by KEPCO, Indonesia Power, and Barito Pacific. Korea’sDoosan Heavy Industry & Construction is partnering to build the boiler system. Korea’s numerous government-run banks, including Korea Trade Insurance Corporation and Korea Development Bank, are providing 1.4 billion dollar loans for the project.

In May, the Korea Development Institute issued a preliminary feasibility study on KEPCO’s Indonesia project, which concluded that KEPCO’s plan will leave them with an 8 million dollar deficit. This aligns with a widespread trend of fossil fuel investments quickly becoming stranded assets

There is also mounting environmental concern from experts. Jawa coal plants are expected to generate 250 million tons of greenhouse gases, which is equivalent to an entire year of Greenhouse Gas emissions in Spain.The 2019 report by Greenpeace estimated that the Jawa thermal plants will cause “more than 4,700 premature deaths in the Indonesian population in 30 years of operation.”

According to IQAir, Indonesia already has the most polluted air in the world. Furthermore, due toa lack of infrastructure, this island country is especially vulnerable to sea level rise and other environmental disasters caused by climate change. Rather than helping Indonesia build up a sustainable renewable energy system, South Korea is allowing KEPCO to take advantage of Indonesia’s relaxed environmental regulations. This is criminal behavior. KEPCO is polluting Indonesia, killing its people, and fueling the existential threat of climate change. At a moment, when the Global Carbon Budget is running short and renewable energy is getting cheaper by the day, Korea’s decision to embark on an entirely new coal power project is shameful.

A few months ago, South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced his commitment to the Green New Deal. While there are no concrete plans yet, the Korean Green New Deal is a visionto transition a part of the country’s infrastructure into an energy-efficient one, while creating thousands of “green jobs” in the process. The fact that the current administration is building massively polluting power plants in South East Asia while claiming to transition to a Green New Deal economy exposes their hypocrisy and shortsightedness. It also completely delegitimizes President Moon’s aspirations to emerge as a model country in a post-COVID green economy

As long as KEPCO continues to invest in the dirty fossil fuel industry, the South Korean government will not escape from its notoriety as a global “Climate Villain.” KEPCO MUST acknowledge the danger and illegitimacy of the Jawa project, and immediately stop all investment in foreign fossil fuel projects.