Photo: Kwon Seong-dong. Credit: People Power Party.
If all the economic news seems bad lately, that’s because it is. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy 산업통상자원부 announced that beginning in July, the price of power and gas - both run by public corporations ultimately owned by the government - will rise by an average of KRW 1.5k (USD 1.1) and KRW 2.2k (USD 1.9) per month per family.
The rise in the cost of power and gas is all but inevitable in an economy with increasing commodity prices and weak KRW. (See previous coverage, “The Triple Quandary.”) Another rate hike is scheduled for October, contributing further to the rate of inflation that is already affecting the South Korean economy severely.
Similar to the effect of rising gas prices in the United States, even a small increase in the electricity and gas bill has outsized political consequences in South Korea. So far, the Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 administration has been attempting to deflect the blame to the Moon Jae-in 문재인 administration, claiming Moon’s “Nuclear Zero” initiative 탈원전 is causing the price hike. (See previous coverage, “Aimless Attack on Nuclear Zero.”) The People Power Party Floor Leader Kwon Seong-dong 권성동 국민의힘 원내대표 said in an interview that “the Nuclear Zero policy caused a lot of pressure for the cost of electricity, but the Moon administration artificially suppressed the power bill.”
The claim is simply false: not a single nuclear power plant was shuttered during the Moon administration, as the Nuclear Zero initiative involved phasing out the existing plants rather than shutting them down immediately. In fact, the amount of power generated by nuclear power plants increased in the five years of Moon administration, as it cut back on coal fired power plants to meet the carbon neutrality goals.