South Korea’s $1 trillion pension fund under new pressure by climate groups over coal

South Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS) is being in a problematic situation by climate groups demanding for the retirement fund, one of the world’s hugest, to reveal details of discussions over limiting investments in coal. Three activist groups in collaboration filed a case on Tuesday at the Seoul Administrative Court accusing the welfare ministry, which looks after  the fund,  denying to release minutes of meetings at which coal divestment policies were talked about , the campaigners said in a statement.

NPS denied to make a statement on the case. NPS is needed by law to share details or documents related to management committee meetings, typically after a year has elapsed. Minutes can be withheld for four years if their publication is judged to have the capacity to affect the fund’s performance or market stability. The fund, which manages assets worth about 976 trillion won (S$1 trillion), had been tentatively going to outline details in 2022 of how it would bring reduction holdings in companies with ties to coal after promising in 2021 to adopt investment-restriction ideas.

NPS holds stakes in companies with coal-related investments involving Korea Electric Power Corp and Posco Holdings. Though majority of the global pension funds have promised to align their portfolios with international climate goals, the task has been very tough and confusing due to the weaker performance of ESG funds and after fossil fuel producers reaped bumper profits from a squeeze on fuel supplies led by Russia invading Ukraine. President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government has in 2023 also reduced short-term goals for renewable energy additions, and given relief to the burden of emissions reduction on some of the majority of polluters.