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Feb 24 2007
Supplied or written by KGEU

KGEU Prepares for Action against Water Privatization

While the Korean government continues to push ahead with its plans to adopt private-public partnerships (PPP) - and eventually, privatization - into water supply, KGEU finalized its own plan of activities for year 2007 against water privatization.

The Anti-Privatization Committee, a standing committee within the KGEU focusing on privatization of public services, decided upon and submitted its plan for this year with the prime aim at making year 2007 a year of resistance against neoliberal restructuring of public offices and privatization of services. KGEU will focus on counteracting the PPPs that are being adopted to various public services provided by local governments, including sports and cultural facilities, libraries and daycare centers, with a particular focus on water supply and the impending bill on ‘Operation and Establishment of National Universities’ that aims to in fact privatize national universities.

The Korean government had announced its ‘Plan on Fostering the Water Industry’ in February 2006 and had recently upgraded it. This plan, in the name of “fostering the water industry”, on the surface attempts to initiate and develop a new ‘star’ industry, but is in fact a policy that will form the basis on which to systematically expand PPPs that are gradually being adopted into local government water supplies and eventually introduce market competition and private investment into the national water supply scheme. The Ministry of Environment, which is in charge of this program, has announced that it will introduce a special bill during the latter half of this year, and push head way with the plan.

The KGEU, along with the Joint Action against Water Privatization – a coalition of around 25 social movement organizations and NGOs that KGEU initiated last September, decided on several concrete actions to counteract the government. First of all, on 22nd March – International Water Day – Joint Action will hold a press conference and a symposium criticizing the government’s plan as well as a street campaign to raise public awareness. It is expected that the government, with sponsorship from various corporations, will use this day to advertise its plan on “fostering the water industry”.

Another area that KGEU plans to tackle is the Korea-EU FTA, which is due to take off in March or April. The Korea-EU FTA is expected to specifically target Korean services – particularly those services that are not open to capital, ie, public services. Water is of special concern, considering that most transnational water corporations are European. The Korean government has openly said it expects water and sewage services to be tabled at the negotiations. When Korea-EU FTA talks start, KGEU and other public services organizations will fight against it, as it is presently doing against the Korea-US FTA.

Joint Action will also continue its regional workshops, which started last December. It has already hosted workshops in three different regions (Daegu-Gyeongbook, Gangwon and Choongcheong provinces), bringing together local trade unions, environment NGOs and activists to discuss the issue of water privatization and form the basis for regional networks and coalitions. 6 to 7 more regional workshops are planned for year 2007. Activities targeting the media are also planned, and the KGEU will implement nationwide education and agitation programs for its workers in the water supply sector. Mass rallies and demonstrations will be organized during the latter half of the year, when the government attempts to introduce the bill on water industry.
In the meantime, KGEU is also focusing on resisting PPPs on the local level. Water supply is run by local governments and amounts to 164 across the country. 9 have already been commissioned to the Korea Water Resources Corporation (KOWACO) and 33 more have signed preliminary contracts. Incheon City has even signed a MOU with Veolia. However, the KGEU has managed to stop PPPs and privatization schemes in 6 regions (including 2 between December 2006 and January 2007), by successfully mobilizing the local community. More PPPs are expected during the upcoming months, but the KGEU is determined to stop each and every one of them. END.

For more info, please contact::

JEON Sohi, Director of External Relations
Korean Government Employees' Union (KGEU)

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