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From coal to clean energy: Can South Korea's mining towns make the switch?

From coal to clean energy: Can South Korea's mining towns make the switch?

Solar panels in Jeongseon county, South Korea, which had as many as 500 coal mines until the 1990s. (Photo: Lim Yun Suk)

JEONGSEON, South Korea: The rows of solar panels in Jeongseon county stand in stark contrast to what surrounds the gleaming installations.

Jeongseon is coal country. Up until the 1990s, there were as many as 500 coal mines in operation. Now there are three. Gangwon province, which Jeongseon is part of, provided the power that fuelled South Korea's post-war growth. 

For several years under different administrations, the South Korean government has made numerous pledges to move away from a heavy dependence on fossil fuels to renewables, by focusing on more environmentally friendly industries.

President Moon Jae-in did the same this year. He introduced what was dubbed the Green New Deal, as part of a wider strategy of transforming South Korea's heavily polluting industries into greener ones, while steering Asia's fourth-largest economy out of a coronavirus-induced stupor.

“The main way to cut greenhouse gas is to cut down the number of coal-fired plants. But the government is giving out more permits for coal-fired plants to operate while saying it wants to tackle climate change,” he said.There are about 60 coal-powered plants across South Korea and around half of them have life cycles ending by 2034. But the government also has plans for seven more large coal-fired power plants by 2022. READ: Jobs come first in South Korea's ambitious 'Green New Deal' climate plan South Korea, which i
Source: CNA/ac

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