Korea’s opposition furiously protests Fukushima dumping, plan candlelight rally for weekend

Posted on : 2023-08-24 17:03 KST Modified on : 2023-08-24 17:03 KST
Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung went so far as to liken Japan’s dumping to a “second Pacific War”
Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, speaks at an emergency rally condemning Japan’s release of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean on Aug. 22 on the steps of the National Assembly rotunda. (Kim Bong-kyu/The Hankyoreh)
Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, speaks at an emergency rally condemning Japan’s release of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean on Aug. 22 on the steps of the National Assembly rotunda. (Kim Bong-kyu/The Hankyoreh)

With one day to go until the release of the radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the ocean, the Democratic Party held a candlelight vigil at the National Assembly on Wednesday, organizing an all-out response by announcing its plan to coordinate street marches and rallies moving forward.

During a meeting of its leadership held at the National Assembly Monday morning, Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the liberal opposition party, remarked, “Japan, which threatened its neighbors’ right to live through imperialist wars of aggression in the past, is attempting to bring about another irrevocable disaster to countries located in the Pacific Basin,” arguing that the country’s plan to dump irradiated water into the ocean “will be recorded as the second Pacific War.”

Democratic Party floor leader Park Kwang-on criticized President Yoon Suk-yeol, urging him to “clearly report [South Korea’s] position and plan [regarding Japan’s plan to dump irradiated water into the ocean] to the public through a national press conference.”

On Tuesday, when Japan announced its decision to dump radioactive wastewater from Fukushima starting on Thursday, the Democratic Party launched its “100 hour-long urgent action” urging others to oppose the plan, which is scheduled to continue until Saturday. The following night, roughly 1,000 people affiliated with the party, including current lawmakers and their aides, party executives, city and district council members in the Seoul metropolitan area, and party members gathered in front of the National Assembly’s main building for a “candlelight vigil against the ocean release of contaminated water.”

On Thursday, the Democratic Party will hold a press conference in front of the presidential office in the Yongsan District of Seoul to state that Japan’s release of the radioactive water violates the London Convention, short for the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters. The following day, it plans to organize a march from Gwanghwamun to the Yongsan presidential office in condemnation of the Yoon administration’s response regarding Japan’s release of the wastewater. For Saturday, a rally against the ocean release of the water in Gwanghwamun co-hosted by civic groups is in the works.

On Wednesday morning, the minor progressive Justice Party held a press conference in front of the Japanese Embassy in South Korea denouncing Japan’s plan to dump contaminated water while organizing a one-person relay protest as well.

The ruling People Power Party accused the opposition of fomenting public anxiety. During an emergency meeting between the government and the ruling party, floor leader Yun Jae-ok remarked, “Although the Democratic Party has always instigated and made political maneuvers by citing the release [of radioactive wastewater at Fukushima Daiichi plant] as an excuse, it is once again unsettling the public through anti-Japan fear marketing and stirring up political strife.”

Sung Il-jong, who chairs the party’s task force on the protection of South Korea’s waters, commented, “Although they say they will hold candlelight vigils expecting the dawn of the second mad cow disease, falsehood cannot win over truth,” adding, “Lies and conspiracies will melt down, burned by the torchlight of truth and science.”

Regarding Lee’s comment about the “second Pacific War,” some within the Democratic Party conceded that it was slightly over-the-top, calling for more detailed criticism befitting a matter directly connected to the lives of the public.

By Kang Jae-gu, staff reporter; Seo Young-ji, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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