What They Said covers the key quotes behind the Korean headlines.
On August 24, Japan began to release treated radioactive water from its damaged Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean, exactly 12 years after an earthquake led to a catastrophic nuclear meltdown. Despite the assessment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the water release is safe, there have been protests against the Fukushima release in both Japan and its neighboring countries, China and South Korea.
Pursuing more friendly policies with Japan, South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol administration received criticism from the Korean people during his visit to Japan in March, where he told the Japanese lawmakers that he would seek the Korean people’s understanding for Japan’s plan to release Fukushima water. The government has maintained that the decision prioritizes people’s health and safety, but in a public poll conducted in Korea in May, 84% of the respondents answered that they were against the Fukushima release.
On August 24, Kim Yuna, a Korean singer-songwriter and the lead vocalist of the band Jaurim, spoke out via Instagram. With an image of the words “RIP 地球”, which translates as “RIP Earth”, Kim wrote:
For the past few days,
I’ve been engulfed in anger.
The cinematic dystopia
in Blade Runner + 4 Years
is starting to become reality.
The scenery of LA in the movie, where sunlight doesn’t even shine
because radioactive rain never ceases.
On a day like today,
I contemplate hell.
— Kim Yuna, singer-songwriter, August 24, 2023
Kim’s remark was met by clashing opinions, from some who wholeheartedly agreed with her perspective and others who criticized her for sharing an unscientific opinion.
The ruling party, the People Power Party, which had opposed the Fukushima release in 2020 during the Moon Jae-in administration, is fully behind the Yoon administration’s decision to agree to the wastewater release. When former president Moon Jae-in did not comment on the wastewater release and instead posted about Korean Go player Shin Jin-seo winning the 9th Ing Cup, both supporters and haters alike criticized him for failing to say anything on the more important issue of the Fukushima release.
Ha Tae-keung, a National Assembly member for the People Power Party offered an explanation:
Former president Moon is likely aware that Japan’s release of the treated wastewater will have virtually no impact on the waters of South Korea. That’s why during the Moon Jae-in administration, the Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed the decision to abide by the IAEA’s conclusions. Because of this, former President Moon is showing a different reaction from the Democratic Party’s. The Democratic Party supporters should now face reality. …
— Ha Tae-keung, National Assembly member for the People Power Party, August 24, 2023
To this, Moon responded:
Because of National Assembly member Ha Tae-Keung, I cannot help but speak up.
I am against Japan’s release of radioactive wastewater.
Moreover, I strongly believe that the government’s handling of this issue has been greatly flawed. Japan’s release of radioactive wastewater will not only cause great anxiety among our citizens, but also result in significant financial losses for our fishers and those in the fishing business.
It is imperative that strong support measures be established to address the financial hardships faced by fishers and those associated with the fishing industry.
— Moon Jae-in, former president of the Republic of Korea, August 24, 2023
In Korea, issues such as these have always been politically charged, and science alone is not enough to sway public opinion as people simply do not trust what politicians say. Moreover, although the vast majority of experts say that the Fukushima release is safe, some argue that the effects on the environment and people are yet to be seen.
In an effort to assure the Korean people that seafood is safe and to encourage seafood consumption, the Office of the President announced that the cafeteria in the presidential office building, which mostly serves members of the press and government employees working in the building, will serve Korean seafood for lunch for a whole week.