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기후위기/생태Feminist Agenda for Climate Justice in South Korea

2024-03-13
조회수 252


The Femnist Agenda for Climate justice was created with the aim that feminism, including women, young people, LGBTQ people, animals and non-human beings, should be the main agenda of the climate justice discourse. In April 2023, 11 organizations, including KWEN, gathered and started discussing. We looked for what problems are caused by climate change in South Korea, what agendas highlight the inequality of social minorities, and which agenda does not have a gender perspective, and sought alternatives together.



1. Make care public.

The capitalist state has shifted the responsibility of care and reproduction to families, especially women. The pandemic has disrupted public care (ex. lockdown of residential facilities), and we were required to deal with the policy vacuum individually.

The capitalist production system constructs a family-based social welfare system, assigning the role of social reproduction to women. At the same time, it strives to maximize efficiency by exploiting Third World countries and communities of color, excluding people with disabilities, children, the elderly, and others who are deemed as ‘unworkable’. The concomitant profit has never been fairly distributed. The reproduction sphere has been privatized and demanded  to women, and was regarded as subordinate to production labor. Moreover, those who need care were deemed worthless, and resources and power were monopolized, justifying discrimination and exclusion.


 De-familializing social reproduction and making care public do not merely mean resolving the gender imbalance of caregivers.We should change the prior meaning of care as the preserver of capitalist production labor, and shift to a society where solidarity and mutual care is possible. 


  • Construct a stable public care network as a response to climate disasters.

  • Dismantle social welfare systems relying on individual care labor (ex. National Basic Living Security Act, Act on Activity Assistant Services for Persons with Disablilties)and make care public.



2. Guarantee sexual and reproductive rights.

 The current developmentalist system controlling sexuality and reproduction has created today’s climate crisis, reproductive crisis, and care crisis. Sexuality and reproduction of women, minorities, and non-human animals have been controlled and exploited  in order to manage productive labor and resources. Moreover, never-ending development projects have destroyed various lives and the ecosystem. As living conditions become more challenging, women are facing more pressure of childbearing, sexual control, and care labor. 

Along with COVID-19, the global care crisis and labor vacuum is reinforcing low-paid, long working hour migrant work, torturing women once again. Sexual and reproductive rights should be guaranteed; everyone should be able to enjoy sexual and reproductive health. All living beings should be safe from violence, coercion, discrimination, and stigma, get access to education, information, health resources and institutions. However, destruction of lives and exploitation of reproductive labor caused by the climate crisis are worsening  the conditions required for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

 We call for a transition to reproductive justice, providing necessary living conditions for current and future generations to live with dignity.


  • Establish sexual and reproductive health indicators for social minorities and create universal supports promoting sexual and reproductive health, and refrain from population policies centered on birth rate.

  • Abolish discrimination against different forms of family and care communities and guarantee shared resources and care networks for everyone.

  • Investigate the impacts of production, use, and disposal of hazardous substances on human and non-human species, and develop measures to reduce them.



3. Incorporate a gender perspective into climate action policies.

 The Korean government should incorporate a gender perspective when planning and implementing climate policies, considering women, minorities, people with disabilities, and young people who are more vulnerable to climate disasters. The UNFCCC recognized the need for a gender-equitable perspective in response to climate change and adopted a Gender Action Plan for gender mainstreaming in 2017, which includes capacity building, gender balance and participation, coherence, gender-responsive implementation, and monitoring. However, South Korea still does not reflect any plans for gender mainstreaming. Even the basic gender statistics has not been produced and there is no gender impact assessment of climate disasters, which makes it difficult to identify the extent of gender-specific damages and build responses. Passive mitigation policies centered on business industries and national strategies based on "green growth" will only exacerbate the damage caused by climate disasters. 

Based on the fact that gender discrimination as a result of structural injustice and climate crisis have more direct impact on social minorities, the state should urgently develop alternatives to ensure their rights.


- Actively produce and use gender statistics and conduct gender impact assessments on climate disasters.

- Develop a gender action plan for gender mainstreaming across climate policies.



4. Develop a decentralized response to climate crisis that includes women, local residents, and other social minorities.

The impacts of climate change vary by gender, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, poverty, education, and residence. The socioeconomically disadvantaged are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes from climate change and instability due to the destruction of residing spaces. Women in particular are at risk of sexual and domestic violence in climate disaster situations. Vulnerable populations and their caregivers, whose daily lives are threatened by recurrent droughts, torrential rains, heat waves and cold snaps, and who are forced to flee their homes, are not only victims, but survivors and problem-solvers of the climate crisis. However, in official discussions on climate change, they are more often referred to as victims of climate change. We cannot solve this crisis when they remain as mere victims. We need a more democratic decision-making process that allows social minorities to emerge as actors of systemic change, and provides policies that reflect their specific experiences and opinions. 

Moreover, there are limitations when we simply apply centralized policies to the local, as local governments have different conditions in terms of infrastructure and information delivery systems on climate crisis. Declarative policies disconnected from local issues cannot solve the  problem of climate crisis.bLocal residents themselves must be involved in the decision-making process on climate justice principles and specific response strategies.


 - Ensure rights of victims, survivors, and stakeholders of climate disasters to participate in decision-making and reflect their opinions in the climate policy making process. 

- Provide supportive policies to strengthen local climate response capacities.



5. Reflect a gender perspective in a Just Transition.


To overcome the climate crisis, we need to transform our current fossil fuel-based industrial structure. And the process and outcome of massive transition to a carbon-neutral society must be just for all. This is what we refer to as the 'just transition'. 

In its 2050 Carbon Neutrality Promotion Strategy, the government has proposed "fair transition to a carbon-neutral society" as one of its three policy directions and established the Fair Transition Committee under the Carbon Neutrality Commission. However, the current government policies are focused on job measures for "men," "workers," and "full-time employees," not taking women, minorities, and irregular workers into account. 

Furthermore, the government stated its ambition to enable long working hours up to 69 hours a week. The growth-driven capitalist system is the cause of the current climate and ecological crises. The long working hours that encourage growth, and the shifting of care to the private sphere, are the foundation of 'patriarchal capitalism'. We are now witnessing the consequences of capitalism - destruction of nature, exploitation of social minorities, and the pursuit of profit through unlimited growth. A growth-driven, patriarchal capitalism is no longer possible. We demand a just transition from a growth-driven system of production and competition to a post-growth, care-driven society that is neither harmful to the environment nor to workers.

  • Transform the growth-oriented industrial system that strengthens long working hours and excessive energy consumption. 

  • Make measures that take the characteristics of women and minorities into account in energy transition.



6. Shift to a society with species justice.

 Addressing the global climate crisis requires an end to speciesism and a just transition in animal agriculture. The livestock industry, along with the energy industry, is the key contributor to the climate crisis. Despite global calls for a drastic reduction in meat consumption and a shift to a plant-based food system to prevent climate crisis, the South Korean government's response to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector has been woefully inadequate. South Korea has a very low food self-sufficiency rate - importing more than half of its cattle, which are the most GHG-intensive, and relying mostly on imported animal feed(97% out of the whole). The government strategy on reducing GHGs is outdated - expanding the use of low-methane feed, maintaining ‘proper’ stocking density, and shortening the breeding period. 

Large-scale animal slaughter in the livestock industry is also a serious problem. On average, more than 1 billion farmed animals(more than 21 times the population of South Korea), are sacrificed for human "appetites" every year. Overcrowding, forced pregnancy and childbirth, mutilation of genitalia and other body parts, and painful slaughter are happening everyday throughout the animal agriculture industry. The exploitation of sentient animals for economic gain, whether inj farms, exhibitions, or experiments, has jeopardized the safety and lives of all of us. 

 In order to survive in the face of fast-approaching climate disasters, we must immediately stop the practice causing severe environmental destruction and animal slaughter, and move towards species justice with coexistence of human and nonhuman animals.

  • Materialize decarbonization and abolish speciesism in response to the climate crisis.

  • Build and expand locallized life-peace communities.

  • Build a system of mutual care that sustains both human and nonhuman animals.



7. Abandon nuclear and coal power plans and develop fundamental climate change solutions.

 The government aims to rapidly expand nuclear power and slowly reduce coal power in response to climate crisis. Coal-fired power plants, which should be the first to be eliminated to reduce carbon emissions, are concentrated in Seoul, Gyeonggi, and neighboring Incheon and Chungnam provinces, where 61 units are in operation. But two more units of ‘Samcheok Blue Power’ are waiting to be operated. Samcheok's new coal-fired power plant, which will emit 12.82 million tons of greenhouse gases per year, will generate twice as much electricity of  the usage of Gangwon Province and send it to the capital city. 

Nuclear power plants are also concentrated in Yeonggwang and Buulgyeong, with 25 units currently in operation and three more under construction in Uljin and Ulsan. The government has recently formalized the monitoring of new nuclear power plants and is taking steps to extend the lives of  nuclear power plants, starting with the Kori 2 plant. In the era of climate disaster, nuclear power plants that carry the risk of major accidents are even more unnerving. Coal power and nuclear power are passing on the burden to local communities and future generations. Air pollution from coal plants has led to respiratory illnesses of local residents, thyroid cancer rates are 2.5 times higher in women near nuclear plants, and tritium has been detected in children. The ultra-high voltage transmission towers that are necessary to send electricity from power plants to the center also come at the expense of local communities. The centralized power generation of nuclear and coal is rooted in the injustice that has led us to the current climate crisis.

We demand more than just a change in power sources; we demand energy independence of metropolitan areas and the expansion of decentralized power systems. 


- Stop the exploitative expansion of nuclear power and shut down nuclear power plants.

- End coal power generation and enact a past coal law.

- Expand energy independence for metropolitan areas and decentralized renewable energy systems.



8. Take action to address housing inequality.

 People living in semi-basements flooded by torrential rains, illegal buildings scorching in heat, slum areas freezing in cold, urban ‘go-si-wons’ unable to escape in case of fire, and unsafe homes with pests and mold  are becoming even more vulnerable due to climate disasters. Yet, the state is encouraging urban redevelopment projects to build expensive private apartments, pushing out homes that are vulnerable to climate disasters.  Moreover, their urban planning leans on privatizing public lands in order to build more commercial facilities and apartments. In times of climate crisis, the basic rights are seriously threatened, especially those who are deprived of the right to housing, enduring severe living conditions. However, the state is using the phenomena of housing poverty and climate crisis to promote development and speculation, driving up housing prices. Everyone should be able to live where they wish to live, for as long as they want to. The cost of housing should be affordable, even for the poor. The international community refers to this as ‘the right to housing’, and countries must take responsibility to ensure it for all. 

The state should reconstruct their housing policies that centers public housing. It should urgently introduce a public pre-purchase system, whereby public land is not sold to the private sector, and the state has priority to putchase existing housings. Moreover, it must improve the system to eradicate rental scam problems and protect tenants’ rights.


  • Take proactive measures to ensure the right to housing.

  • Stop selling public land to the private sphere; introduce public pre-purchase system; and provide purchased rental housings in order to secure 20% of all housings as public housings.

  • When development projects are inevitable for improval of living conditions, they should be led by the public in order to strengthen public housing.



9. Ensure the rights of women farmers, and secure food sovereignty.

 The increasing difficulties of peasants in South Korea, where food self-sufficiency rate averaged below 20% in 2020-2022, demonstrate that the country is facing a huge systemic crisis. In order to solve the food crisis led by climate disasters, we need to secure sovereignty and basic rights of peasants who are striving to practice sustainable food production. 

In particular, female peasants have long been the core laborers, caregivers, and conservators of native seeds in agrarian communities, but they have not been treated equally due to the patriarchal system. Even in South Korea, most of the farm owners are male peasants, and female peasants have not been able to independently recognize their professional status as farmers. Industrial agriculture, based on monocultural farming, is designed to rely on improved seeds, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides, which not only increase the profit of the capital, but also pollute the land and water and increase greenhouse gas emissions. However, the state is actively promoting "smart farming," which only provides an excuse for large corporations to dominate agricultural production under the guise of "climate crisis”. 

The value of peasants preserving native seeds and maintaining ecological farming in times of climate crisis should not be judged solely in economic terms. Moving away from technology and industry-driven solutions, ensuring peasant rights is the way to protect biodiversity and food sovereignty.


  • Stop promoting corporate-driven, large-scale industrial agriculture and smart agriculture;make a shift to an agroecology paradigm.

  • Actively develop policies to ensure peasants’ lives in times of climate crisis and improve the legal and social status of female peasants.



10. Take responsibility in terms of the international community.

 South Korea has become a wealthy industrialized nation, rapidly catching up Western "developed" nations, reaching the 10th largest GDP in 2021. It has a long history of subordination and exploitation by patriarchal colonialism, while at the same time sending 300,000 South Korean troops to the U.S. Vietnam War to earn foreign currency. In 2020, the South Korean government first announced its Green New Deal and carbon neutrality goals, but in the same year it exported coal plants to Vietnam and Indonesia. It is replicating the developmentalist and colonialist state model, exporting ecocide in the name of economic growth. The government and companies are exporting coal and nuclear power plants across Asia, destroying the local lives and ecosystem. This is a continuation of historical exploitation of the global South and moreover the fossil fuel-driven industrial civilization. This shows that South Korea is no longer in a position of the victim, but rather a debtor of climate crisis. The scale of damage and loss caused by the climate crisis will only increase. This does not just mean economic damage and loss. They include non-economic damages and losses that cannot be quantified in monetary terms; such as physical, mental, emotional, and social health, life in connection with nature, ecological diversity, means of sustaining life, local cultural heritage, and indigenous knowledge. Women and social minorities are the main victims of this economic and non-economic damage and loss. 

We oppose to development projects socalled ODA(official development assistance), which is under the neoliberal, growth-oriented, and corporate-centered global system perpetrated by the state. They have caused resource exploitation and large-scale construction projects of vulnerable countries. Instead, we demand government’s international development projects to focus on the realization of global climate justice based on a gender perspective.


  • Stop the exploitation of the Global South and develop international development policies centered on global climate justice from a feminist perspective. 

  • Actively intervene to create alternatives in order to address the problems caused by climate crisis and pay climate debt.



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