The Korea Herald


Controversy brews over Seoul's Fukushima water safety video

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Aug. 23, 2023 - 16:56

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Screenshot from a video titled Screenshot from a video titled "Telling the Truth of Fukushima Contaminated Water by Top Experts in Korea" on the South Korean government YouTube channel

A South Korean government-sponsored video asserting the safety of the Fukushima contaminated water discharge came under fire, with opposition figures and political analysts questioning the motive behind the video production.

On July 7, a video lasting 4 minutes and 25 seconds titled "Telling the Truth of Fukushima Contaminated Water by Top Experts in Korea" was uploaded on the government’s official YouTube channel. It turned out that the video was produced at a cost of 38 million won ($28,000) on the presidential office's budget, according to the local newspaper Hankyoreh on Tuesday, citing Rep. Wi Seong-gon of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea. Wi received the details from the Office for Government Policy Coordination.

The video featured Jeong Yong-hoon, a professor of nuclear and quantum engineering department at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, one of the nation's most prestigious universities.

"People do not have to worry at all about whether there will be a health problem (with the discharge)," Jeong said in the video.

Kang Do-hyung, head of the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, also appeared in the video, saying that Fukushima and South Korea are about 20,000 kilometers apart in oceanographic terms, and that it takes four to five years for the water to reach South Korea.

Members of civic groups hold a press conference in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, criticizing President Yoon Suk Yeol for Members of civic groups hold a press conference in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, criticizing President Yoon Suk Yeol for "siding with" Japan's plan to release the wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea, on Wednesday. Yonhap

The video also dismissed concerns about Japan's influence on the International Atomic Energy Agency, noting that the United States and China contribute more funding to the UN agency than Japan does.

The Democratic Party and some political critics strongly criticized the presidential office for covering the cost of the video, which was released ahead of the controversial water discharge.

In a local radio interview on Tuesday, political critic Chin Jung-kwon criticized the government, asking, "Why is our government doing what the Japanese government should do?" He added that these matters should be handled by the Japanese government using Japanese government funds.

Rep. Jung Sung-ho of the Democratic Party questioned why the Korean government would step forward and declare the situation safe, even as Japanese fishers are strongly opposing it. He stated: "Even if this is necessary for the improvement of relations between Korea and Japan in the government's own way, it should not be done like this."

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim Dong-yeon made a statement on Wednesday, saying, “I even think that the Korean government is cooperating with the discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant beyond aiding and abetting.”

The Korean government “dismissed the public's concerns as a ghost story,” produced a promotional video that said the discharge of contaminated water is safe with the president's office budget, and “virtually acknowledged” the discharge of contaminated water, Kim said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the decision to set Thursday as the release date was made after considering the concerns of fishers in Japan and the situation in South Korea.

According to the Japanese news report, as dragnet fisheries are set to resume operations in the waters near Fukushima from early September, the Japanese government had considered releasing the water early in August and disclosing radiation measurement data to demonstrate its safety. However, the release date was pushed back to the end of August after the schedule for the Korea-US-Japan summit was moved up from the end of August to Aug. 18.

The newspaper reported that it was necessary to be considerate of Korea, as President Yoon Suk Yeol showed an understanding of the release plan while facing criticism from the opposition party.