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(LEAD) DP launches signing campaign against Fukushima water release

14:06 May 26, 2023

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead, para 2; ADDS Rep. Lee Jae-myung's quotes in paras 3-4, additional info in paras 7-9; CHANGES photo)
By Kang Jae-eun

SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) kicked off a signature campaign Friday to oppose Japan's planned release of radioactive water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The party held a ceremony at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul to launch the campaign that is also seen as aimed at criticizing the government of President Yoon Suk Yeol for its handling of relations with Japan.

"How can the president and the ruling party responsible for state affairs take the side of Japan and give them impunity, consent ... to dumping dangerous nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean when South Korea is supposed to suffer damage from it?" DP Chairman Lee Jae-myung said at the event.

"We will fight, together with the people, to keep our ocean waters clean and to ensure our fisheries industry people and fishery-related industries do not suffer damage," he said. "As a starting point, we are entering into a signature campaign."

The DP has strongly opposed the planned water release, citing concerns about health hazards.

A team of South Korean experts visited Fukushima earlier this week to check if the contaminated water can be treated enough to pose no health risks. The visit was agreed upon during a recent summit between President Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The DP has also opposed the team's visit, claiming it could end up giving a blessing to the planned release of contaminated water. The party has also accused Yoon of taking Japan's side at the expense of the health of his own people.

The inspection team is scheduled to return later in the day.

Main opposition Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung (C) speaks at a ceremony in central Seoul on May 26, 2023, to launch a signing campaign opposing Japan's planned release of radioactive water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. (Yonhap)

DP floor leader Rep. Park Kwang-on said the party will mobilize all parliamentary committees to verify a report that the inspection team plans to submit on the outcome of the Fukushima visit, and consider convening a plenary National Assembly meeting for an urgent interpellation session on the issue.

"We believe the People Power Party will actively join in the Democratic Party's verification process. There is no reason to avoid it," Park said, calling on the ruling party to approve the DP's earlier proposal to adopt a parliamentary resolution opposing the Fukushima water release.

He also urged the inspection team to promptly submit a report "free from government influence."

Park said a recent survey by an environmental organization showed that 85 percent of South Koreans are opposed to the Fukushima water release, while 72 percent said they would consume less seafood if the planned released goes ahead.


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