DP chairman accuses Tokyo, President Yoon of ‘deceiving’ Korean public
Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Jae-myung accused Tokyo and the Yoon Suk Yeol administration Monday of “deceiving” the Korean public into believing that the water Japan plans to release from its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is safe.
The remarks came two days after officials from the Korean and Japanese governments met at Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul to discuss Korea’s inspection of the ruined power plant later this month and Japan’s plan to release tons of water from it into the sea.
If Tokyo insists the water is safe, it might as well use it as drinking water, or for agricultural or industrial purposes at the very least, Lee said on Monday morning during a meeting of the DP’s leadership.
“It’s like pouring poison into a well we all share and claiming it’s safe,” the DP leader stressed.
Lee also took a jab at the Yoon administration, saying it wasn’t standing up for its people.
“Our government is no different,” said Lee. “Instead of falsely claiming and distorting contaminated water as treated water, we should stand up to Japan.”
Lee urged the Yoon administration to “represent the interests” of Korea and “speak and act as a representative” of the country.
The decision to allow a group of Korean experts into Japan to inspect the Fukushima nuclear power plant site was announced earlier this month after a summit between Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul.
The two leaders have been announcing reconciliatory gestures in recent weeks.
Seoul and Tokyo have been at odds over the Fukushima wastewater issue for years, ever since the Japanese government announced plans in 2021 to gradually release tons of treated, but radioactively contaminated, water from the wrecked power plant into the sea.
Despite fierce opposition from fishing communities at home and abroad, Japan insisted it was an unavoidable step to eventually decommission the plant, a process that could take three to four decades.
Even after the leaders’ announcement about the inspection, bilateral talks on the process have been anything but smooth, with both countries appearing to disagree over its nature.
Last week’s working-level meeting in Seoul lasted for 12 hours from Friday 2 p.m. to Saturday 2 a.m., much longer than the initial prediction of four to five hours, alluding to fierce wrangling between the two sides.
Both governments announced in separate press releases that they would meet again as soon as possible for further discussions.
During Monday’s DP leadership meeting, floor leader Park Kwang-on also criticized the Yoon administration and rival People Power Party for asking Yoon to veto the contentious Nursing Act, saying the suggestion was “embarrassing.”
“The Nursing Act is a law that directly affects the health and well-being of the people,” said Park. “Moreover, the establishment of the Nursing Act was one of President Yoon’s campaign promises.”
Park urged Yoon to promulgate the Nursing Act in Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting as normal, and warned against dividing the country through exercising his veto.
While the newly legislated Nursing Act is effectively aimed at improving the working conditions of nurses, doctors’ associations have warned they will go on strike Wednesday if Yoon does not veto the bill, which was passed in the National Assembly late last month.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]