Seoul, South Korea – South Korea’s financing of highly polluting overseas coal plants is projected to cause a total of 47,000 to 151,000 premature deaths over 30-years in countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, revealed a new Greenpeace East Asia Seoul office report

At a time of increasingly serious global impacts of climate change from burning coal, South Korea – through its public finance agencies (PFAs) – is financing overseas coal-fired power plants that can emit up to 33 times more air pollution than those built in South Korea.

Tata Mustasya, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said: 

“The burning of coal releases pollutant particles that penetrate into our cells, damaging every organ in our body, causing everything from dementia to harming unborn children. Coal is also the single worst contributor to the global climate crisis. 

The countries which are hosting South Korean-financed coal plants, many of which are in Southeast Asia, are severely vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution and climate change. The host country governments must protect their citizens and the planet, by rapidly transitioning away from coal to clean and renewable energy.”

Greenpeace East Asia Seoul office’s analysis and modelling found:

  • The ten power plants – funded by South Korean PFAs (KEXIM, K-Sure, KDB) – are expected to cause 47,000 – 151,000 premature deaths over the power plants’ average 30-year lifespan if operating at existing local emission limits. 
  • Vietnam is predicted to be the most affected country carrying 38% of the total death burden, followed by Indonesia (29%) and Bangladesh (20%).
  • The double standard of emission limits for dangerous air pollutants allows South Korean-financed coal-fired power plants overseas to emit up to 18.6 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx), 11.5 times more sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 33 times more dust pollution than those built in South Korea. 

“In 2017, president Moon Jae-In and his government announced that they will not allow new coal power plants in the country moving forward. Meanwhile,  the South Korean government, between January 2013 to August 2019, has pumped 7 trillion KRW (around 5.7 billion USD) into overseas coal plants with poor emission limits. This double standard is threatening thousands of lives and our planet, it has to stop,” said Mari Chang, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace East Asia Seoul Office.

It is time for President Moon Jae-In and his government to not only implement domestic clean energy standards on foreign investments but also shift immediately away from financing dirty coal and towards renewable energy sources. This change in policies and investments must happen now to safeguard people’s health and the future of our planet.



Full report in English and Korean

Executive summary in English, Korean, and Vietnamese

Press release in Vietnamese


Greenpeace International Press Desk (available 24 hours), [email protected], +31 (0) 20 718 2470

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