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[From the scene] Korean students join global climate strike

Some 500 students on Friday took to the streets in central Seoul to demand bolder measures to mitigate climate change, joining the global movement triggered by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.

Some of the students skipped classes and others came with their classmates, teachers and parents. They called for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as scrapping plans to build new coal fired power plants in Korea and abroad by 2020, and transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

“It seems like the government is indifferent to climate change. I wanted to show that I care about it by joining the rally -- and so should the government,” said Lee Gyeom, 15, while marching toward the presidential office from Gwanghwamun Square.

“Animals go extinct, and maybe human beings will end up going extinct too,” said Lee, who came to the rally with his whole class. “Adults only think about their interests at present.” 


The youths expressed disappointment at the government’s lukewarm response to fighting climate change, just a few days after President Moon Jae-in put forward the government’s plan to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions at a UN climate summit in New York.

Praising his administration for faithfully implementing low carbon policies, Moon said he would shut down six more aged coal fired power plants in addition to four plants that were already closed. He added that the country would double financial commitment to the Green Climate Fund and suggested the designation of Blue Sky Day at the UN meeting joined by leaders from 65 countries.

However, the government’s plan has drawn criticism for lacking a road map and timeline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- such as not building any more coal-fired power plants and shifting to renewable energy. The goal in itself was also criticized for not being bold enough.

“Climate crisis is the reality students are facing. It gets colder in winter and hotter in summer. All these frequent typhoons and fine dust. … I can feel the effects of climate change in daily life,” said Cho Hae-min, 23.

“We should not ignore such signs. Real actions are needed, such as regulating meat consumption or excessive waste (of food and plastic),” she said.

The students marched toward the presidential office, chanting “Greenhouse gas emissions zero! Respond, Korea!” They held handwritten signs saying “All teenagers on earth are extinct animals” and “I am scared of Suneung (the college entrance exam) but I am more scared of climate crisis.”

It was the third round of students’ climate strike following other events in March and May.

Korea, the world’s seventh-largest greenhouse gas emitter, still heavily relies on coal-fired power plants and nuclear reactors, which generate about 65 percent of electricity combined as of 2018.

The Moon administration has laid out a road map to raise the proportion of renewable sources from the current 6.2 percent to 20 percent by 2030 and to phase out coal and nuclear energy. However, at least five coal-fired power plants are planned or are already under construction.

By Ock Hyun-ju (