SEOUL, Korea– A group of South Korean civic activists, politicians, fishermen and ordinary people gathered in central Seoul on Saturday to raise their voice against the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) final report on Japan's planned discharge of nuclear wastewater into the Pacific. The protesters demonstrated near the South Korean foreign ministry building, where the visiting IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi was scheduled to meet with the South Korean foreign minister. Grossi also faced a group of South Korean protesters near an international airport late Friday night when he arrived in Seoul for a three-day visit. "As revealed in the IAEA final report, there are few contents verified and evaluated with our safety perspective other than the data presented by the Japanese government and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company)," the organizer of the protest rally said in a statement. "TEPCO and the Japanese government, which have already caused radioactive contamination beyond the standard since the Fukushima accident, cannot be justified for any reason for irresponsibly polluting the sea again," it noted. Yong Hye-in, lawmaker of the minor progressive Basic Income Party who joined the rally, told Xinhua that the IAEA report had a clear limitation from the beginning as it was prepared only to the extent Japan had agreed with. The lawmaker criticized Japan for its irresponsibility as the East Asian country chose the cheapest way out of the five disposal options, proposed in 2018 by the subcommittee on handling the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated water, an advisory body under Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The proposed plans included geosphere injection, underground burial, hydrogen release and vapor release as well as the discharge into the ocean. Yong said the South Korean government seemed to give up diplomatic efforts to urge the international community to fight against Japan's radioactive wastewater discharge plan, calling for Seoul to play an active role. Park Gwang-hoon, a Seoul citizen who participated in the rally, said he never trusted the IAEA report, which alleged the discharge plan "meets international standard," accusing it of accepting only Japanese demands. Park expressed his absolute opposition to the discharge plan, which he said was picked by Japan just to save costs but would harm the entire ocean and the health of people around the world, asking Japan to keep the contaminated water on land after the ALPS treatment. Kim Choony, secretary general of the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM), emphasized that the nuclear wastewater release was against international laws. Kim called on the South Korean government to work in cooperation with relevant countries to file a complaint against Japan with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. "Fishermen see the (IAEA) report as a complete mess ... The report includes a phrase stating that (the IAEA) is not responsible for whatever will happen. It's not scientific but for the Japanese government and TEPCO," Lee Ki-sam, a fisherman from South Jeolla province, told Xinhua. The Japanese government has been pushing for dumping the contaminated wastewater this summer from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was hit by a massive earthquake and an ensuing tsunami in March 2011. The move has aroused strong opposition and doubts from domestic fishing groups, neighboring countries and South Pacific island countries, as well as the international community.

Source: Manila Bulletin (