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[Speaking Out] Fukushima Plan Proven Safe, Says South Korean Daily

A major South Korean daily has accused an opposition party's objection to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant's treated water release of deviating "far from the facts."



Wi Seong-gon (center), a member of South Korea's Democratic Party of Korea, and others receive explanations from evacuees (far left) from the TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in the coastal area of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 7. (© Kyodo).

Lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Korea, a South Korean left leaning opposition party, visited Japan on April 6 through 8. The purpose of the trip was to demonstrate their objection to the planned release of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the sea. 

Their visit to Fukushima came under fire in South Korea. Notably, The Chosun Ilbo, a major daily that has long led anti-Japan campaigns, carried an editorial titled "Rejecting science and facts, the Democratic Party of Korea is seduced into demagogic politics." The editorial, dated April 6, cited scientific grounds for rebutting the opposition party's claim that the release would be dangerous. This came as a surprise to me who has watched Japan-South Korea relations for a long time.

Members of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, South Korea's largest opposition party, hold a press conference in front of the TEPCO headquarters prior to their Fukushima inspection tour on April 6. (© Kyodo)

A Major Daily Reports Treated Water Release as Harmless

Criticizing the Democratic Party's claim as groundless and fake, The Chosun Ilbo's editorial noted that the release of treated water from the nuclear power station would exert no harmful effect on South Korea. It said: 

Five lawmakers will visit Fukushima to protest against the water release, despite the suggestion that their claim is groundless and fake. 

If the release of treated contaminated water from the Fukushima plant were to really affect South Korea, the South Korean government should officially address the issue instead of the lawmakers' visit for protest. But the claim deviates far from the facts.

It is important to note that the newspaper describes the water as "treated contaminated water" not simply as "contaminated water." 

The editorial details a joint simulation by the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute:

If the treated contaminated water is released now, it will take four to five years to really reach waters near South Korea after going around the Pacific Ocean. Of course, the water then will have been diluted. Tritium in South Korean waters is predicted to increase only by one hundred thousandths. It is meaningless to check such a number. Practically speaking, no effect will be exerted on human health. Nuclear energy experts say the same conclusion can be drawn for other radioactive materials such as cesium and strontium.

Restrictions Remain on Fishery Imports from Fukushima 

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is the incoming head of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians' Union.

During South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's visit to Tokyo in March, Suga asked for his understanding of the release of treated water and the removal of restrictions on fishery product imports from Fukushima. 

Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (third from right front) and others meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol (second from left front) in a Tokyo hotel on March 17. Suga later became the head of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians Association on March 27. (Courtesy of the association's secretariat).

It was natural for Suga to do so because he made the decision to release the water when he was prime minister. Then, Kyodo News reported Yoon as telling Suga that he would seek the understanding of South Korean people even if it takes time, causing a big controversy in South Korea. 

The South Korean Presidential Office said Yoon made no such remark and that restrictions on fishery product imports would be retained. But opposition parties and leftist news media have growingly criticized the president over the reported remark. The problem thus represents an internal struggle within South Korea. 

Regrettably, the Yoon government and conservative newspapers do not face the fact that the restrictions on fishery product imports from Fukushima "reject science and facts." Japan has no choice but to keep reiterating what it needs to say.


(A version of this article was first published by the
Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, Speaking Out #1030 in Japanese on April 10 and in English on April 12, 2023.)

Author: Tsutomu Nishioka

Tsutomu Nishioka is a senior fellow and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a visiting professor at Reitaku University. He covers South and North Koreas.

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