Energy Conservation No Longer an Option in Korea

Article excerpt

Some Koreans, especially those who live in apartments, have the strange habit of running around their homes in shorts in the middle of winter since their homes are heated up enough to make it seem like summer.

Gasoline prices have soared to new highs, most recently to around 1,300 won per liter, but the streets of Seoul are crammed with automobiles, many of which only contain a driver.

Many homes and offices tend to be excessively lit and few Koreans pay much attention to the fact that electricity and other forms of energy come, especially in Korea, at a very heavy price.

According to the Korea Energy Management Corp. (KEMCO), the fact that Koreans use energy excessively is undeniable and there are clear records to prove this very disturbing point.

``We have to remember that we import 97 percent of all our energy and the cost for this year alone is expected to exceed $30 billion due to the high oil prices,'' one KEMCO official said.

As compared to Korea's 97 percent, the import dependency ratio, which is closely associated to national security, is 86 percent in Japan, 59 percent in France and just 27 percent in the United States.

Despite this reality, the amount of petroleum that Koreans use up daily is 2 million barrels, ranking them no lower than sixth in the world behind the United States, Japan, China, Germany and Russia.

Making things worse is the fact that the import of energy has been soaring in recent years, from $18.1 billion in 1998 to $22.8 billion last year and an estimated $30.3 billion this year.

And while the Korean economy grew at an average rate of 6.3 percent in 1990, the increase in energy consumption was in double digits, constantly ranking Korea among the top two in the world.

``The simple fact is that the consumption of energy in average Korean households is about the same as that of Japan where the per capita income is three to four times higher,'' the KEMCO official said, citing statistics from Energy Balances of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Countries 1999.

Another clear indication that Korean consumers have a strong appetite for energy is that the average Korean automobile uses up 3.1 TOEs (tons of oil equivalent) per year as compared to 1.3 in Japan, 1.7 in France and just 1.2 in Italy.

``There are many reasons why there is such heavy energy consumption in Korea, one being that industries are extremely energy-intensive,'' the KEMCO official observed.

For instance, the proportion of energy-intensive industries like cements, steel and petrochemicals is 30.8 percent in Korea when it is more like 21.7 percent in Japan and 23.8 percent in Germany.

Fortunately, KEMCO officials said, there are numerous ways through which Korean consumers and businesses can conserve energy without giving up an arm and a leg.

In a recently-published booklet, also posted on the Internet at, KEMCO introduces 100 simple methods for ordinary individuals, businesses and motorists to save energy.

At home, KEMCO suggests that attention be paid to the excessive use of cooking fuel and points our that the use of pressurized cookers, which reduces cooking time, alone can save over $21 million every year.

And then there are move obvious ideas like instilling the importance of energy conservation in the minds of children and teaching them how they can go about using less energy. …