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Hypocrisy of Environmentalists

Posted August. 05, 2010 11:36,   


The left-leaning Korean Federation for Environmental Movement and the progressive People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy enjoyed their golden days under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. Under the guise of protecting the environment, the federation frequently hindered major public and private projects and also joined campaigns against candidates in general elections and movements to repeal the National Security Law and criticize the U.S. With the federation’s influence increasing, several large companies have closely monitored leading staff at the two major civic organizations.

The former leader of the federation, Choi Yul, was indicted without detention in 2008 and last year for embezzling 180 million won (154,000 U.S. dollars) and taking bribes of 130 million won (111,000 dollars) from a real estate developer. He earned an additional monthly income of millions of won (thousands of dollars) as an external director for several large corporations. An environmental foundation Choi was involved in drew criticism for holding a fundraising event at a luxury hotel in 2005. Businesspeople said at the time that they did not want to go to the event but had no choice to avoid being at a disadvantage. Choi once said, “Civic activists cannot live on dew.”

Federation members who demonstrated in Yeoju County, Gyeonggi Province, against the four-river restoration project were caught burying five kilograms of food waste at a park near the Namhan River. Those who present themselves as guardians of Korea’s land and constantly comment on the environment and ecology committed a hypocritical act at a rest area. Even ordinary people who play in the water invite criticism for doing the same thing. Though environmental activists must show a high level of morality on environmental issues, they went in the opposite direction.

Such hypocrisy is often seen in other left-leaning civic groups and progressive figures. The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, which took the lead in bashing large companies, sent invitation letters containing an agreement to 850 listed companies and 3,500 individuals to hold a sponsorship event in 2006. It even handed information on the governing structure of SK Corp. to the U.S. fund Sovereign, which tried to take over SK. Leftist media outlets, which defended the Korean government’s crackdown on the media and illegal monitoring of journalists under former progressive administrations, are now pretending to be the champions of free press. They talk about community, equality and generosity for the weak, but many of them are materialistic and selfish figures living in the posh Seoul district of Gangnam and owning country club memberships

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)