South Korea’s fishing community intensify protests over Japan’s Fukushima water plan

The fishing community in South Korea intensified their protests against Japan after it announced last month to release more than a million tonnes of wastewater from the Fukushima disaster into the Pacific Ocean.

Activists have practically camped out in front of the Japanese embassy, with dozens of different groups demanding Tokyo reverse course, invoking environmental Armageddon, delivering petitions and in the case of some students, shaving their heads.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in the final year of his five-year term, with approval ratings at their lowest following his party’s recent electoral defeat, came out strongly against Tokyo’s decision, calling for officials to look into legal means to block Japan’s discharge of the wastewater.

The governors of Jeju Island and Gyeongsang Province and the mayors of Busan and other cities and towns are among those calling for Japan to abandon its plan and for South Korea’s national government to act with greater urgency.

Fisheries groups in South Korea have been among the most vocal opponents of the controversial plan with flotillas of vessels taking to the sea to fly flags of protest.

“Our industry is on course to suffer annihilating damage, just with people’s concerns about a possible radioactive contamination of marine products,” a coalition of 25 fisheries organisations said, in a written protest to the Japanese embassy last month.

Japan insists the water, which has been treated to remove harmful radioactive substances, is safe and plans to start releasing it in two years’ time.

Estimates suggest it will take at least a year for the wastewater to reach South Korea’s fishing grounds but some say it could take less than 200 days from the date of discharge, the Yonhap news agency reported.