Despite protests from fisheries and environmental organisations, South Korean President Moon Jae-in directed officials to look into petitioning an international court over Japan’s decision to release water from its Fukushima nuclear plant.
After treating the water to extract radioactive isotopes, Japan announced plans on Tuesday to dump more than 1 million tonnes of polluted water into the sea from the plant crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, beginning in around two years. South Korea reacted angrily to the decision, summoning Tokyo’s ambassador in Seoul, Koichi Aiboshi, and convening an intra-agency emergency meeting to plan its response. Moon called for looking at ways to refer Japan’s transfer to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, including applying for an injunction, at a separate meeting on Wednesday, according to his spokesman Kang Min-Seok.
Moon shared his displeasure with the decision as Aiboshi presented his credentials for the ambassadorship, having arrived in South Korea in February. “As a country that is geologically closest to Japan and shares the sea with it, I cannot but claim that there are many questions here about the decision,” Moon said, according to Kang, asking Aiboshi to express those concerns to Tokyo. Politicians, local leaders, fishermen, and environmental activists staged a series of demonstrations against the change in South Korea on Wednesday, including in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul and consulates in Busan and Jeju Island.
A group of 25 fisheries organisations held a rally and delivered a letter to the embassy urging Tokyo to reverse the decision and Seoul to prohibit Japanese fish imports. “Just with people’s concerns about potential nuclear pollution of marine products, our industry is on track to suffer annihilation damage,” it said in a statement. The Justice Party, a progressive minor opposition party, and more than 30 anti-nuclear and environmental organisations called Japan’s move “nuclear terrorism,” and said they had sent the Japanese embassy a list of more than 64,000 signatures opposing the move collected from 86 countries since February.