Thousands of South Korean fishermen staged a rally on Monday near the parliamentary building in Seoul to protest against Japan’s plan to dump treated radioactive water from its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
The fishermen, who came from across the country, held banners and placards that read “Stop Japan’s nuclear terrorism” and “Protect our sea and future”. They also demanded that the South Korean government take stronger measures to stop Japan from carrying out its controversial plan.
Japan announced in April 2021 that it would gradually release more than 1.2 million tons of contaminated water stored in tanks at the Fukushima plant, which was damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Japan said the water would be diluted and treated to remove most of the radioactive elements before being discharged into the sea over several decades.
However, the plan has sparked fierce opposition from local fishing communities in Japan and neighboring countries, including South Korea, China and Pacific Island nations, who fear that the water could still contain harmful substances and pose a threat to marine life and human health.
The South Korean government has expressed its “strong regret” over Japan’s decision and urged it to reconsider. It has also vowed to take legal action at the international level to protect the interests and safety of its people.
Meanwhile, the operator of the Fukushima plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), began tests on Monday of newly constructed facilities for discharging the treated water into the sea. The tests use fresh water instead of the treated water and are expected to continue for about two weeks ahead of mandatory pre-operation checks by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
The tests have also drawn criticism from South Korean fishermen, who said they are a “provocation” and a “mockery” of their livelihoods and concerns.
“We will not accept Japan’s unilateral decision to release radioactive water into the sea,” said Kim Do-hoon, head of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, which organized the rally. “We will fight until Japan withdraws its plan and apologizes to us.”