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HomeGlobal NewsProtesters rail against Fukushima release plan – DW – 08/12/2023

Protesters rail against Fukushima release plan – DW – 08/12/2023

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Hundreds of South Koreans gathered in Seoul on Saturday to oppose an initiative by Japan to release treated nuclear wastewater from the tsunami-devastated Fukushima plant into the ocean.

The protesters are concerned that releasing the water would increase food safety risks for South Koreans and that it would also harm the environment. 

An earthquake and tsunami in 2011 damaged the Fukushima plant, putting out a massive amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere.

What happened during the protest?

The demonstrators held signs with slogans such as “Protect The Pacific Ocean” and “Nuclear Power? No Thanks!” Some of the signs also negatively depicted conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who backs the plan.  

 A sign at the protest depicting Yoon Suk Yeol and a nuclear container
Yoon endorsed the plan as his administration seeks closer ties with Japan despite historical grievancesImage: KIM HONG-JI/REUTERS

The protesters took part in chants and also listened to speeches from rally organizers. The protests were peaceful and there were no reports of clashes or unrest.   

One of the activist organizations that started the demonstration, Korea Radiation Watch, said the release of the water “will eventually destroy the marine ecosystem.”

“We are opposed … because we believe the sea is not just for the Japanese government, but for all of us and mankind,” group member Choi Kyoungsook said.    

Japan’s government intends to release the water later this summer, but has not scheduled a specific date to move forward.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reviewed Japan’s plan and said it would “have a negligible radiological impact to people and the environment.”

Japan’s plan to release Fukushima wastewater raises alarm

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South Korean opposition to file UN complaint

The center-left Democratic Party of Korea has called on Yoon to renege on his support for the plan. The party also said it would lodge a complaint with the UN Human Rights Council regarding the initiative and whether the IAEA properly assessed the dangers of the plan. 

The latest protests in the South Korean capital come ahead of a meeting between US President Joe Biden, Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida slated for August 18.

Indo-Pacific security will be at the top of the agenda, but the Fukushima discharge plan could also come up during the talks.    

wd/jcg (Reuters, AP)

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