Thursday, February 7, 2013

Demonstration Outside Indian Embassy, Seoul, Against Forcible Acquisition of Land for POSCO

Reacting to the brutal crackdown by Orissa Police at the crack of the dawn on February 3rd, comrades from different organizations in South Korea took the initiative of organizing a demonstration outside Indian Embassy in Seoul this morning (7th February). During the demonstration a Joint Press Statement was also released and circulated. The press statement was prepared under the aegis of "Advocates for Public Interests Law", "Energy & Climate Policy Institute", "GongGam, Human Rights Law Foundation", "Korean Confederation of Trade Unions",  "Korean Federation for Environmental Movement", "Korean House for International Solidarity",  "Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights", "National Association of Professors for Democratic Society", "People’s Solidarity for Social Progress".

Below is an English translation of the original Press Statement in Korean released and circulated during the demonstration and few images from the demonstration:

Joint statement
Indian Government Stop Forcible Land Acquisition

We strongly urge the Indian government to halt forcible land acquisition for the POSCO project in Orissa immediately. 

Korean civil society organizations have strongly argued that the Indian government should go ahead with the project  only after consideration of human rights of the villagers and environment. Some of committees of the Indian government and National Green Tribunal clarified their position that the proposed project failed to obtain villagers' consent and environment effects should be examined thoroughly.

Despite POSCO Project acquiring legitimacy from the Indian government, it is clear that mobilization of police force should not and can not be the principal means of resolving the issue.

The Indian government should be aware of the pain and predicament of the Indian villagers, who are being deprived of their lifelong land holdings and houses and have received unfair compensation. Early in the morning of 3rd February 2013, Indian police attacked peaceful protesters. They attacked women and children, cut the trees and devastated facilities in the villages. Furthermore, from 5th February onwards, police and Indian government officials have initiated forcible land acquisition procedures in the villages opposed to the proposed project.

Also, Korean civil society is unable to comprehend why the police force is being involved in POSCO project , even though the government has refrained from deploying troops.

On 28th January 2013, when South Korean Minister of Knowledge Economy visited India, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said "We have been concerned about the delays and will be conducting a review. Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) himself has been monitoring this project".
Korean civil society is disappointed with the Indian government if the meaning of ‘review’ and ‘monitoring’ is to resort to violence and deploy the armed forces. 

Not only opponents of the project in the village, but international civil society including South Korean civil society are skeptical whether POSCO launched the project with villagers' full consent through 'legitimate' procedures. In addition, we doubt whether the Indian government adheres to its own environment clearance guidance. For this reason, on October 2012, civil society groups from India, South Korea, Norway and Netherlands petitioned NCPs of Korea, Netherlands and Norway pointing out that the POSCO project as an undertaking is in violation of OECD guidelines laid down for multinational enterprises. In this situation, enforcement of the project with the deployment of armed forces would never be beneficial to POSCO as well as to the Indian government.

Korean enterprises including POSCO have expanded investment in India. However, Korean civil society does not want disadvantaged population in India to suffer human rights abuses and discrimination as a result of escalated investment by Korean companies. The Indian government, as a responsible government respecting human rights, has to pay attention and listen to Korean civil society organizations who have being pointing out fallacies in forcible expropriation of land, instead of only listening to and focusing on enterprises  like POSCO. 

We therefore urge the Indian government to:

- Withdraw the police force as soon as possible and prosecute those who are responsible for the assaults.

- Provide adequate treatment to the injured villagers and adequately compensate those who lost their trees and other sources of livelihood.

- Reexamine POSCO project and ensure villagers’ right to partake in decision making.

- Respect villagers' human rights and rather than perpetrating protect them from brutal assaults. 
Mr. Hyun Phil Na
Deputy Director
Korean House for International Solidarity
Tel: +82-2-736-5808


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