Campaigners call on South Korea’s poisoned pension scheme to disinvest from cluster munition producers

Did you know your National Pension Fund is funding illegal weapons? This is the title of the recent campaign of South Korea’s Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) member Weapon Zero and partners. Targeting the National Pension Service of Korea (NPS) – the biggest investor in producers of cluster munitions in the country – Weapon Zero aims to cease NPS’s investment in companies that produce this lethal weapon.

South Korea hosts two cluster munition producers, Hanwha and Poongsan.

The campaign has been calling on the South Korean government to stop investing in cluster munitions and join the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), using a range of creative mediums since 2010. Weapon Zero created its own disinvestment films ( and and translated the Dutch documentary ‘The Cluster Bomb Feeling’, ensuring South Korean viewers can learn about the role of financial institutions’ investments in producers of cluster munitions elsewhere in the world. The campaign also produced leaflets, bomlet-shaped petition cards and a Korean translation of relevant information from the “Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility” report by CMC member organisations IKV Pax Christi (the Netherlands) and FairFin (Belgium).

In April 2013 Weapon Zero, in coalition with 13 other South Korean organisations, launched their latest disinvestment action with a press conference outside the NPS offices.  The decision to specifically target NPS was made not only because it is the largest South Korean investor, but also because people have the right to know what their pension funds are up to and what their pension money is being invested in. The campaign subsequently collected nearly 3,400 signatures for two petitions calling on NPS to stop investing in cluster bomb manufacturers. In a letter responding to the South Korean NGOs, NPS wrote that it has no socially responsible investment (SRI) policy and that its objective for investment is profitability.

“It’s shocking that NPS is the biggest investor in cluster munition producers in Korea” said Yeo-ok, Weapon Zero activist in South Korea. “National pension is established to provide a social safety net for the weak. It is a great contradiction that the money collected for the well-being of people is used for weapons that kill and maim others.  We don’t want our future benefits to come from blood money. NPS must disinvest from the producers and come up with an ethical investment policy that bans the investment on inhumane weapons such as cluster munitions.”

The Convention on Cluster Munitions categorically bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, and the CMC and a growing group of states believe that the convention’s prohibition on assistance includes a prohibition on investments in cluster munitions. However, South Korea has not yet joined the lifesaving convention. The 2012 “Worldwide investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility” report shows that there are at least 21 other South Korean financial institutions that also invest in producers of cluster munitions. An updated version of the Worldwide Investments report will be launched in December 2013.

The South Korean campaign is part of the global Stop Explosive Investments campaign of the Cluster Munition Coalition.