South Korea: Mass protests continue against Fukushima nuclear waste dumping

September 6, 2023
50,000 people took to the streets on September 2, in the second mass protest in Seoul against the dumping of Fukushima's radioactive wastewater since August 26. Photo: Shin Joon-shik

The biggest of the global protests against Japan’s dumping of radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean — which began on August 25 — have been in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Green Left's Peter Boyle spoke to Denise Yoon, a key organiser of the movement.

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How big are the demonstrations in Seoul and which sections of the population have joined the protests?

Since August 26, we have had two big national rallies in Seoul and around 50,000 people have gathered at each.

About half of the demonstrators are members of four opposition parties: the Democratic Party, the Justice Party, the Progressive Party and the Basic Income Party. The rest are from religious and civil society groups, including environmental and consumer organisations, parents organisations, justice and democracy activists and human right defenders.

How strong is the spirit in these protests and do you think they will continue?

According to a public poll by the Seoul city government in August, around 80% of citizens oppose Japan's ocean dumping of nuclear wastewater and condemn the Korean government's support of Japan without appropriate regard for Korean people's safety from ocean pollution.

People think the Korean government has failed to explain scientifically, environmentally and economically why they claim that the Fukushima wastewater is not a big deal. They also distrust the International Atomic Energy Authority’s report because its conclusion [supporting Japan’s dumping] is based on deficient data and evidence.

Due to the Korean government's very active promotion of Japan’s unilateral decision to commence dumping, many Korean people are getting very angry at the government. Polls show that President Yoon Suk Yeol now has a disapproval rate of 58% and this is influenced not only by the Fukushima issue, but also by government incompetence on other issues.

This is why we were able to hold these two big rallies.

We will organise a national rally every Saturday in September and expect more people will join the protest.

What are the plans for action in South Korea on September 16, the date of the next global protest?

We will hold the 4th National Candlelight Rally in Gwanghwamun Plaza and we expect more than 50,000 people to join in for speeches, bands and cultural performances. Global solidarity messages will be shared. This rally will call on Japan to stop the dumping and it will demand that the Korean government prohibit the import of marine products from Japan.

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A demonstration against the Fukushima wasterwater dumping marched on the presidential office in Korea's capital, Seoul, on September 2. Photo: supplied

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