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South Koreans in Solidarity with Anti POSCO protests in Orissa, India

16 June 2010

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(Source: Blog of New Socialist Initiative, New Delhi)

Solidarity Picketing infront of POSCO Headquarter in Seoul and Press Statement by Comrades in Korea against the Recent Crackdown in Orissa

Dear Comrades,

After last months crackdown on Anti-POSCO demonstrators in Orissa, some Comrades in South Korea took the initiative of organizing a picketing infront of POSCO Headquarter in Seoul, South Korea.

Later in the day a Joint Press Statement was also released and circulated. The press statement was prepared under the aegis of Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), Gong-Gam (Public Interest Lawyers’ Group), Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). The was also endorsed by All Together (Students’ Organization), Citizens’ Forum for Corporate Social Responsibility, Centre for Corporate Social Responsibilty, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy along with individual activists.

New Socialist Initiative is in solidarity with this action by comrades in Korea. To see pictures from the "Solidarity Picketing" please visit http://nsi-delhi.blogspot.com/2010/06/solidarity-picketing-in-front-of-posco.html

Below is an English translation of the original Press Statement in Korean along with few images of the picketing:

A Joint Press Statement on the Recent Violent Crackdown on Anti-POSCO Demonstrators in Orissa

Prepared by :
- Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS) http://www.khis.or.kr
- Gong-Gam (Public Interest Lawyers’ Group) http://www.kpil.org/eng
- and Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) http://kctu.org

Date: May 25th 2010
- Venue: POSCO headquarter in Seoul, Korea

On May 15th, a violent crackdown on anti-POSCO demonstrators took place in Orissa state of India, by police force. Due to the bloodshed, 2 got seriously wounded and about 100 got injured. According to Indian media, the police fired not only rubber bullets but also real bullets (live ammunition) toward the demonstrators in order to suppress them. In addition, it is reported that the police blocked a medical aid for the protestors even.

Since POSCO’s steel mill project has started, the locals have been staging protests to protect their homes – their livelihoods. As a part of this state-wide resistance against the POSCO project, some residents in Balithutha have been on hunger strike since this January. On May 15th when the police’s suppression plan got out, protestors who were participating in the hunger strike increased from 600 to 3500 with a considerable number of women and the elderly.

The proceeding of the POSCO project has caused an immense suffering on the side of local villagers already. The community is torn out by constant conflicts and confrontations divided into two groups - those who support the steel mill project and those who oppose, and faced with serious disruption of their livelihood and uncertain future. For them, who conserved the traditional way of life handed down by their ancestors, such a swift change in life – itself - is violence.

Across the country, homes are being destroyed and livelihoods are threatened by “development” induced displacement and violence. The unfair share of burden of “development” on socio-political minority groups in India has now become an international concern. In response to the increasing interests of international society, the Government of India was forced to make a promise that it will avoid exerting its power unnecessarily and will persuade opponents with appropriate compensation packages regarding the POSCO project.

However, suddenly, we hear that the government sent police force which then violently put down civilians including women and seniors. The morals and conscience of the Korean society do not tolerate the anti humanitarian act of Indian police force, and cannot ignore physical and emotional wounds of the victims. Although, the police claim that the protestors used the violence first and its use of violence was only self-defense, the media coverage by Indian TV channels proves that the police crackdown was brutal and irrational without the least consideration on the safety of the demonstrators. Thus, we are eager to know the reason of such an anti-humanitarian repressive measure by the Indian Government and feel compelled to question legitimacy of the measure.

In mega-development projects like the POSCO project, the relentless effort of the Indian Government’s to satisfy multinational companies even by violating human rights of its own people have become all too familiar. The companies favored by the government are clearly a party to the crime.

No matter how many corporate social responsibility programs POSCO has in India, and how hard the company claims its innocence in relation with the brutal crackdown in Orissa, it is impossible for them to escape from its responsibility. The company made itself an accomplice in the abuse of human rights by profiting through the crime. POSCO’s own website clearly states that it will respect traditions and culture of local societies and do its best to realize joint prosperity and inclusive development with local communities in the “Country and society" section. Also, it says it will abide by generally accepted international and national laws and regulations relating to human rights, environment, culture, economy, and etc. Therefore, this truly unfortunate incident puts the POSCO’s ethical principles under scrutiny of international society. Surely, it can jeopardize the reputation of the company in corporate social responsibility.

On this matter, POSCO must provide the citizens of India and Korea an immediate response with a clear explanation and an explicit plan on what measures it will take in order to fulfill its responsibility as a party involved. The company should strive to make sure that an ugly and unfortunate incident like this would never happen again.

We demand :

1. POSCO to come out with its stance and explanation on the matter immediately

2. Request the government of India to ensure that a brutal government offence like this will not happen ever again

Also endorsed by:
- All Together,
- Citizens Forum for Corporate Social Responsibility,
- Center for Corporate Social Responsibility,
- People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

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