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Korea: Provisional victory on Yonggwang 5 & 6

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(October 18, 1996) The dispute over the planned construction of two nuclear reactors in Yonggwang (South Korea) has taken a new twist with an announcement by the county chief on Sept. 10. Kim Pong-yol said he definitely would not allow the reactors (units 5 and 6) to be built in defiance of a ruling by the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI).

(460.4562) WISE-Amsterdam - Embarrassed and enraged by this decision, the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) is preparing to file an administrative suit to overturn this decision. KEPCO officals also said the corporation would file suit seeking compensation for financial losses resulting from the delay in the project. KEPCO is the country's only electricity producer.

Environmental organizations like the Korean Federation of Environmental Movements (KFEM), Green Korea and local groups are very pleased. They vowed to employ all available means to counter future steps by KEPCO and the BAI. Under relevant law, the BAI chairman can file a complaint against those who refuse to comply with BAI rulings in disputed administrative affairs for possible criminal action. The BAI can also impose its own disciplinary measures. The dispute dates back to January 22 when the county chief approved the plan for the reactor project and then withdrew it eight days later in the face of (sometimes) violent protests from citizens and environmental groups in the region. KEPCO took the issue to the BAI in late March and the inspection body ruled in July that Yonggwang county must allow the construction of the reactors. County chief Kim made his latest decision apparently keeping in mind the organized moves by citizens in alliance with civic groups to block the reactor project.

In a press conference, Kim said: "At the moment the most important thing is the safety of the people and their consensus (against the plan)". He cited the citizens' distrust of the safety of nuclear reactors in operation as the reason why they oppose the construction of two more 1,000-MW reactors at the Yonggwang Nuclear Complex which would cost an estimated 4 billion. In May, three leaders of a grassroots movement - all members of the Roman Catholic Church - were arrested. in July they were sentenced to one and a half years in prison. (see WISE NC 456.4517).

Source: Korea Times, 12 September 1996
Contact: Green Korea, 385-108 Hapjong-dong, Mapo-ku, Seoul Korea
Tel: +82-2-325 5525 Fax: +82-2-325 5677

Korea: Independent monitoring nuke-sites

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(July 12, 1996) A National Civilian Radioactive Monitoring Network has been established in South Korea. Last September during the annual audit by the National Assembly and ministries, it was discovered that many radioactive monitoring systems in the country were not functioning at all.

(456.4521) WISE-Amsterdam - This has led the NGO Green Korea to prepare a network for independent monitoring by citizens around nuclear plant sites. Starting this year, citizens' committees of local residents at the four sites (with a total of 11 reactors) will check for radiation, using small hand-held radiation detectors. They will also plant a radiation-sensitive plant, the spiderwort (see box), around nuclear facilities.

Source: Green Korea Report, Spring-Summer 1996
Contact: Green Korea, 385-108 Hapjong-dong, Mapo-ku, Seoul Korea
Tel: +82-2-325-5525
Fax: +82-2-325-5677

Spiderworts (Tradescantia) are being used as biological indicators of radiation emitted from nuclear power plants. This monitoring was developed in the 1960s by Dr. Sadao Ichikawa, a radiation geneticist at the Department of Agriculture, Kyoto University in Japan, and others. Now all the reactors in Japan and some in Europeand the United States of America are monitored with the Spiderworts. The Spiderwort strategy is employed by encircling the reactor site with many potted plants and regularly collecting them for scoring. The spiderwort experiment shows the important biological aspects of radiation exposure: attachment, incorporation, and concentration. It has demonstrated the extent of genetic damage from biological concentration of low levels ofradiation in living plant tissue. Some cells of the stamen hairswill change color from blue to pink after exposure to radiation.This change is used as an indicator of somatic mutation or othercell damage. The Spiderworts will show in a short time (8 to 12days) what would take years to appear in the affected population. The scoring can be done on a low-powered microscope.
Source: No Nukes, by Anna Gyorgy and Friends. South Ends Press,1979.


Repression in Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(July 12, 1996) 1995 was the year that the South Korean government and its nuclear policy suffered a setback by the cancellation of the Koorup Island nuclear waste site. (see WISE NC 432.4263 and NC 445.4414)

(456.4517) WISE Amsterdam - But in December 1995 the government announced a "long-term plan of electric power supply 1995-2010". Today 11 reactors at four sites already supply 35% of the whole country's electricity needs. Moreover five reactors are under construction, and if the government's plan is realized in 2010, half of the electricity needs will be provided through nuclear energy. Nowadays the hottest issue is the construction of the units 5 and 6 at the Yonggwang site.

In South Korea a local decentralized government system was installed but the first act of the head of the municipality in Yonggwang was to cancel the permission to build new reactors. The central government and KEPCO (the monopolized electricity company) were puzzled at this cancellation. They tried to change it. The local residents reacted against the pressure and held some demonstrations. In May the government suddenly arrested three leaders of the grass-roots movement (all of them are members of the Yonggwang Roman Catholic Church). In July the three arrested persons and a priest who helped local residents, were sentenced to one and a half years in jail.

The government plans to change the law to take back some power from the local authorities, so that such an "unwelcome" decision cannot be taken for a second time. Many NGOs in Korea are preparing to protest against this law and to help the prisoners. Support letters are welcome.

Source and Contact: Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), 110-042 Nooha Dong 251 Chongo Seoul, Korea.
Tel: +82-735 7000
Fax: +82-730 1240.

Defective fuel rods Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 19, 1996) An accident took place in South Korea. During a test run at the Yonggwang Nuclear Power Plant no. 4 in South Chola Province, damaged fuel rods leaked radioactive iodine into the cooling water, increasing its radiation density to 500 times the permissible level.

(445.4403) WISE-Amsterdam - But the plant authorities, with the approval of the Ministry of Science and Technology, continued the test run until Sept. 23, falsified their reports to the press, and only admitted the accident when a member of parliament raised questions during the National Assembly's inspection of administrative affairs.

The defective fuel rods were Korean-made and inspected by the Korean Nuclear Safety Commission. Thus, there is reason to expect further accidents.

Although the citizens' awareness of the dangers of nuclear power is growing, the government still keeps a tight lid on all information regarding nuclear matters and does not brook interference with its nuclear development plans. Due to pressure from above, possible whistleblowers - "insiders" with information about the actual situation - are unwilling to come forward and speak freely.

1997, twelve percent of the country's primary energy will be supplied by nuclear power plants. The nuclear share will reach 25 percent by the year 2030.

Source: Civil Society (Korea), August 1995
Contact: Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, Ducksoo B/D 4th Fl., Sinmunno 1 ga 31, Chongno-ku. Seoul 110-061, Korea.
Tel: +82-2-735 7000; Fax: +82-2-741 1240

India: Heavy water for South-Korea N-Plants

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 20, 1994) India will ship 100 metric tons of heavy water for use in nuclear power plant in South Korea. Kepco, the Korean Electricity Power Co. op South Korea, is planning to use the heavy water for the tree 600-MW Candus being built by AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd) at Wolsung. The bulk of the heavy water required for the plant is bought from AECL, with China and India selling each 100 metric tons.

(412.4087) WISE Amsterdam - The US$23 million pact for the supply from India was signed in Seoul by representatives of India'a Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Kepco. DAE officials say the heavy water is scheduled to be shipped in 1997-98, and its movement and usage will be subject to IAEA safeguards.

India has 8 heavy water production plants with a total capacity of 655 metric tons a year. Three were built with help from German and French companies, and five indigenously. Therefore it's the only country where three different technologies are used in heavy water production.

The supply of heavy water to South Korea is India's first commercial export of the strategic nuclear material. India would like to become a leading world producer of heavy water, partly to make up recent budget shortfalls and partly because delays in India's indigenous nuclear power program. This delay has led to unexpected heavy water surplus. Current installed nuclear generating capacity is only 1,720 MW from nine reactors, just 2.5% of the total installed power capacity. And the country's nuclear establishment has had to prune its plans for 10,000 MW of installed nuclear capacity by 2000 to just 3,820 MW in recent years because of money difficulties.

Long delays in completing new nuclear reactors have led to cost overruns exceeding 300%. The Kakrapar Atomic Power Project -- two 220 MW pressurized heavy water reactors using natural uranium fuel -- was originally estimated to cost Rs 3.8252 billion but the cost has been revised to Rs 13.35 billion. The first unit began operating in May 1993 and the second is expected to go critical later this year. The third and fourth 220 MW PHWR at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project were estimated to cost Rs 7.1157 billion, but now the estimate has shot up to Rs 21.07 billion. The Kaiga Atomic Power Project's two units, also 220 MW PHWRs, was approved (in 1987) at a cost of Rs 7.3072 billion but is now to expect to run over Rs 22.75 billion. (Exchange rates, May 1994: Rs 100 = ± US$ 3.2)

Sources:Nucleonics Week, 14 & 28 April, 1994
India: Anumukti, Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalay-a, Vedch-hi, 294 641 India.
South Korea: KAPE (Korean Action Federation for Environ-ment), Ducksoo B/D 4th Fl., Sinmunro 1-ga, 31 Jongro-gu, Seoul 110-061.
Tel: +82 2 735 7000; Fax: +82 2 741 1240

Forgotten Korean Victims

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development

(March 28, 1993) Japan is the only officially recognized country to have been subject to bombings with nuclear weapons. However, the victims of those bombings were not just the Japanese. There were some Allied Forces who were prisoners of war in both cities at the time, along with many Chinese and Koreans from Japanese-occupied countries who were also victims. In fact, nearly 10 percent of the total victims were immigrant Koreans.

Yuri Kitaoka


Korean workers had begun immigrating to Japan since the Japanese occupation of their country in 1910, many forcibly taken away from their lands and jobs in their homeland. After World War II broke out, the Japanese government coerced Korean and Chinese people into working in factories or mining in Japan. By 1945 the numbers of Koreans living there had increased to more than two million, which was almost 10% of the whole Korean population. And when the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and on Nagasaki on 9 August, those two cities had grown into the main munitions supply cities in Japan, so many were concentrated into those areas.

A citizens group for Korean victims estimates the number of Korean victims at Hiroshima to have been seventy thousand, of whom thirty-five thousand died. At Nagasaki there were thirty thousand victims with fifteen thousand dead. Although everybody faced equal risks at the time the bombs dropped, most Koreans found the aftermath much harder than the Japanese. For example, many of them had no place to evacuate to without any relatives to go to, thus they had to return to the contaminated and devastated cities. Even people who had evacuated were forced back to the cities to help with the cleaning up there. If medical teams found that a patient was Korean, he or she had to stand at the end of the lines of people seeking help.

On 15 August 1945, Korea finally became independent and Korean people in Japan were free. But they lost everything in Japan as well as their homeland. After they returned to Korea, they had to start their lives all over again from nothing. To add to the losses and the agonies of radiation disease, poverty and discrimination, the Korean War broke out soon afterwards. Some of those arriving in Korea had been born in Japan or lived so long a time there and spoke little Korean. Many of them had no opportunity or access to education and training for a good job so that they could only get jobs subjecting them to terrible physical conditions. One side-effect of the Korean War was that the diseases and after-effects caused by the radiation were hardly known in Korean until the 1960's. If a victim had money to go hospital, doctors put the name of disease as something else. One man whose fingers and toes swelled abnormally was thought to have leprosy and he had to leave his village with his family.

The answers to a questionnaire by the citizens group for Korean victims in 1979 shows that 80% of them are suffering from various illnesses, though just 19% of them can afford to go hospital. One third of have no jobs and 80% live in poverty.

The Japanese Government's Attitude

After the hydrogen bomb tests on Bikini Island by the USA, Japanese citizens began to organize groups against nuclear weapons and to support victims of the bombs. In 1957 and 1968 two bills to benefit the victims were passed. Far from satisfactory, they at least enabled victims to obtain the right to free medical treatment, though living expenses were not included. Non-Japanese victims were not covered under these bills at all.

In 1965 the South Korean and Japanese governments concluded a treaty giving compensation to Koreans suffering under the occupation. Nothing, however was mentioned about compensation to Korean nuclear victims. This made them very angry and stimulated the organizing of a group to push for their right to compensation from the Japanese government. In 1970 Son Jan To, one of the victims living at that time back in South Korea, entered Japan illegally and made a direct appeal to the government for free medical treatment. The government rejected this appeal because of the 1965 treaty. Supported by Japanese citizens groups, Son Jan To went to court in 1972. He went before the Supreme Court in 1978, where he won his case.

Victims and supporters began voicing their demands more strongly. To avoid dealing with them, in 1980 the government started a project under which the Korean victims could have access to free medical treatment. This sounds nice, but the project has strict conditions such as:

  1. medical costs are paid by Japan, but travel costs to Japan must be paid by the Korean government;
  2. only fifty people per year are accepted;
  3. the treatment period is only two months, with exceptional cases lasting six months maximum;
  4. excluded completely are serious cases and patients of advanced age;
  5. only hospitals in Hiroshima and Nagasaki can participate in this program.

There are some 23 thousand victims now in South Korea, but just 351 people have made use of this program. Even though South Korea has no hospital and doctors specialized and experienced in treating radiation diseases, the South Korean government felt so humiliated with this situation that it refused to continue with the program after 1987.

The Korean victims' organization started to make their demands clear. Based on compensation paid to out Japanese victims up to 1987, the group calculated that US$ 23 hundred million was owed to Korean victims and claimed this amount from the Japanese government.

Ignoring the claim, in 1970 the Japanese government decided one-sidedly to give 400 million Yen (approximately $US 3.16 million) for medical support. In the name of "humanitarian aid" the government intended to finish the discussion over compensation. Li Men Hi, a victim, had attempted suicide by taking in pesticide in front of the Japanese embassy at Seoul soon after she heard the decision. She had been desperate for help, have struggled so long a time in poverty with radiation disease of her own and her sick daughter. Now supported by a citizens group and individuals, Li Men Hi is now under treatment in a hospital in Japan, though a severe life is still waiting after her return to Seoul.



In the article, "Forgotten Korean Victims" a mistake has been discovered by the author. [after printing] The article mentions a Korean woman, Li Men Hi, who was said to have committed suicide in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. In fact, she was rescued after having tried to commit suicide and it is she, not her daughter, who is now in care at a hospital in Japan.

Most of the victims are aging and dying every year in suffering various disease and in poverty. At least they have been able to have free medical services since 1989. Some are too poor and weak, however, to reach the nearest hospital and have difficulties in completing the paper work necessary for the bureaucracy without help. They are also greatly in need of living expenses.

North Korea seems to have two thousands victims, but nothing further about their situation is known.

The Monument of Korea Victims in the Peace Park

When a monument for Korean victims was built in 1970, Hiroshima city refused to allow it to be located in the Peace Park where the center of the bombing occurred and is commemorated by a monument for the atomic bomb victims. The reason the city authorities gave was that "the Park is too crowded." Angry victims and supporting groups have for years been demanding that the Korean monument be relocated, but Hiroshima city ignored their voices.

In 1990, for the first time, a Korea victims delegation made an official visit to Japan. When the delegates saw the monument standing outside of the Peace Park, beside a busy street, some of them could not stand it and cried out, "Why should we still discriminated even after death!?". Major media publicized this scene widely, so that finally Hiroshima city agreed to relocate the monument inside the Park. More than two years since the decision was made, the monument still stands on the same place because of no consensus on how to move it. Twice now, too, the paper cranes which are left at the monument as a symbol of peace and dedicated to the victims have been set on fire.

Contact: The Citizens Group for Supporting the Korean Victims, c/o Ms. Matsui, 3-36-5 Momoyama-dai Suita-shi Ohsaka, Japan, tel: +81-6-871-3446.


Waste problem in Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 22, 1992) The disposal of radioactive waste is becoming a highly controversial issue in Korea. Nine reactors are now in operation and the waste is being stored at each site, but storage space will reach capacity within one to two years.

(372.3653) WISE Amsterdam - Total storage capacity for intermediate and low-level waste is about 60,000 drums (200 liters each) and as many as 32,000 drums have already been stored. At the Kori nuclear power plant, the oldest plant in Korea which started operation in 1978, 24,000 drums have been stored and the plant is close to its capacity of 32,000 drums.

Korea has so far chosen not to reprocess its spent fuel, also stored at the reactor sites which are now close to full capacity of about 3,300 drums. Fifteen hundred drums have now been stored and the situation is quite serious at the older reactors such as Kori and Wolsong.

British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) is negotiating a reprocessing deal with South Korea, despite the fact that the country is on the UK Department of Trade and Industry's list of nuclear sensitive nations. (South Korea is one of 33 countries listed as sensitive destinations for nuclear exports because of "proliferation concerns and other criteria, including the risk of diversion and the lack of effective controls.") BNFL plans to set up an office in Seoul to market their range of services to the state-owned South Korean electricity company, Kepco. Should a reprocessing deal be struck, it could lead to one of two outcomes: either South Korean nuclear waste would be disposed of in the UK (despite the government's insistence that such deals contain a "return to sender" clause); or plutonium would be transferred to South Korea.

Japan, too, is looking at possibilities to reprocess South Korean spent fuel at its Rokkasho-mura facility. The plan, once rejected, recently resurfaced when the South Korean Minister of Science and Technology visited Japan in March and told the press there that his country might entrust its preprocessing to Rokkasho in future. (He had made a similar statement last November in the Korean diet but "corrected" it the next day after it was strongly criticized.)
Sources: Safe Energy (UK), Apr/May 1992; Nuke Info Tokyo, Mar/Apr 1992.

Hence the promoters of the plants hope to build an LLW (low-level waste) disposal site by 1995 and an HLW (high-level waste) permanent storage site by 1997. Last 27 December they announced six final planned sites for disposal. These are Kosong and Yangyang on the Japan Sea coast near the border, Uljin and Yong-il which have been chosen as reactor sites, Changjung near Cheju Island, and Anmyon Island where strong opposition previously stopped a plan announced in 1990. The reason why this island was chosen again is that the ground is geologically stable and 70% of the land is owned by the country. But again the local islanders are furious over the government's announcement.

After abandoning the plan in 1990, the government tried to buy off some of the local people and chose the island as a site again in November 1991. But the islanders refused again, and now feel they have been deceived twice by the government. From the moment the latest plan was announced, strong protests have been taking place at every site. At Yong-il, protesters began a sit-in at the county office on the day the plan was announced, and demonstrations and street occupations have continued ever since. At Anmyon island a rally was held on the day of the announcement and the following day about 1,500 people showed up and staged a strong protest despite police use of tear gas. On 7 January, 10,000 people gathered and showed their strength while protests and rallies are taking place at the other planned sites as well. The Government will probably make a final announcement soon, following the federal election held in March.

Source: Reprinted from Nuke Info Tokyo, Mar/Apr 1992, p.7.

Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, 302 Daini Take Bldg. 1-59-14 Higashi-nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164, Japan; tel: +81-3-5330-9520; fax: +81-3-5330-9530.


Waste, weapons and reactors: nuclear threat in Far North

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 12, 1991) The Norwegian environmental foundation Bellona has been collecting information on Soviet nuclear activities in the far north in the Kola Peninsula area during the last year and has revealed previously unknown information on dumping, nuclear testing and nuclear storage. Some of this information has been summarized in English and is reported below.

(352.3500) WISE Amsterdam -


According to the foundation, the Soviets have been dumping low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in the Barents Sea, offshore of the Kola Peninsula. The dumping, says Bellona researcher Frode Haaland, continued at least until the end of 1985. The London Dumping Convention banned dumping of such waste in 1983. The ship "Sarebryanka" was used for the dumping, and has been photographed by the Norwegian military while actually engaged in the dumping.


This ship and three other outdated vessels are now used for temporary storage of low- and intermediate- level waste, mainly from the nuclear ice breaker fleet. A new deposit is about to be made in a mountain close to the Murmansk fjord.

On the east side of the Litza fjord, close to the Norwegian border, low- and intermediate-level waste from the Soviet north fleet is being stored. The high-level waste from the fleet is in long-term storage in tunnels on the Kildin Island, outside Murmansk fjord. In addition, low- and intermediate-level waste from the nuclear power plant in Polyarni Zoni, near Lake Imandra, is stored in onsite waste dumps. Fuel rods are shipped to Cheliabinsk after three years of cooling.

Nuclear Power Plant

The oldest reactors at Polyarni Zori were installed in 1973-74, and are of the same type as the now closed reactors at Greifswald. The other two reactors were commissioned in 1981 and 1984, and do not comply to western standards.

Soviet North Fleet

The Soviet fleet based on the Kola Peninsula number 117 nuclear-powered submarines, with 223 reactors. Additionally, six surface vessels have 12 reactors, bringing the total number of reactors to 235. The north fleet has some 3500 nuclear warheads. This fleet passes close to Norway when escaping into the Atlantic, which is the fleet's main working area.

The Big Threat...

This adds up to a formidable nuclear threat to the far north, a threat that is currently shaking the population of the northern regions of Norway. And in a move that brought even less reassurance, Bellona recently revealed secret information from the Norwegian Health Ministry on a planned evacuation of northern Norway in 1961 because of the excessive fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing on Novaya Zemlya.

Source: Bellona, 3 April 1991. (According to Bellona's Erode Haaland, the information given here is believed to be correct and has been cross checked by him. The information on the storage areas mentioned is partly confirmed by Soviet officials. The information on storage of fuel rods on Kildin has been confirmed by a KGB officer, and photographs give further confirmation.)

Contact: Bellona, P.B. 8874 Youngstorget, 0028 Oslo 1, Norway; tel: 02-38 24 10; fax: 02-38 38 62.
Social-Ecological Union (USSR), tel: 095-151 62 70.
"Pravitel'stvenny Vestnik" (Soviet governmental weekly news bulletin), Rybny pereulok 3, 103 012 Moscow, USSR; tel: 095- 924 28 18 (information).

Korea buys CANDU reactor

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 26, 1991) Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) signed a contract on 27 December 1990 to supply a 700-MW CANDU reactor to South Korea.

(351.3490) WISE Amsterdam - The sale is the first since one was sold to Rumania in 1980. the project is expected to cost Cdn $1.2 billion. According to the Canadian Nuclear Awareness Project spokes-person, Irene Kock, "The federal (Canadian) government is giving AECL Cdn $224 million per year in subsidies, and historically, the company has received over Cdn $14 billion, so the Korean deal doesn't even come remotely close to making the company profitable".

Construction on the reactor, Wolsong-2, is expected to begin in 1992 and be completed in 1997. It will be located at the same site as an earlier CANDU (Wolsong-1, a 600 MW reactor sold to South Korea in 1975), on the southeast seacoast.

The original Wolsong-1 deal was marked by scandal, including bribery and attempts by South Korea to manufacture nuclear weapons. It was known at the time that South Korea was attempting to purchase a reprocessing plant from France that would have allowed it to produce plutonium for bombs from spent reactor fuel. In June 1975, General Park Chung Hee, the South Korean dictator at the time, said that if US support weakened, South Korea would need nuclear weapons, and, he declared, "We have the capacity to do it." In the wake of the scandal that had followed the explosion of a nuclear bomb by India in 1974 -- using Canadian-supplied nuclear technology -- Canada signed a tougher new nuclear cooperation agreement with South Korea in January 1976. It was only later, however, that US pressure resulted in Korea abandoning its attempts to obtain reprocessing technology.

It was also revealed in the 1976 Auditor General's Report that Shoul Eisenberg of Tel Aviv, who had acted as an "agent" for AECL in the Korean deal, had received Cdn $18 million in unaccountable payments from AECL. The reactor sale had been worth Cdn $400 million in total. The Canadian House of Commons Public Accounts Committee launched an investigation. However, the Committee's own Liberal majority voted against the right to subpoena. AECL officials refused to testify, or to open their books for inspection. The Committee concluded that "some of the payments were indeed used for illegal or corrupt purposes", but apparently, the case didn't go much further.

The reactor deal was also controversial because of widespread human rights abuses in South Korea. Unrest there continues today.

Source: Nuclear Awareness News (Canada), Winter 1990/1991, p.10.

Contact: Nuclear Awareness Project, Box 2331, Oshawa, Ontario, L1H 7V4, tel: (416) 725-1565.

Korean protests force cancellation of waste plan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 7, 1990) Thousands of villagers rioted in protest of plans by the South Korean government to build a low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste (LLW/MLW) repository on Anmyon Island, 90 miles southwest of Seoul.

(343.3427) WISE Amsterdam - The disturbances ended only after the government announced it would cancel the planned repository. It was the country's most violent anti-nuclear protest to date.

The riots also resulted in President Roh Tac-Woo's decision to fire a cabinet minister, Chung Kun-Mo, who has headed the Ministry of Science & Technology since early this year, and a provincial police chief. In South Korea, public officials traditionally are fired and held responsible for social unrest over government policies in their jurisdiction.

On Thursday, 8 November, after two days of relatively peaceful protests, some 10,000 women, men and school children attacked government facilities and police vehicles with firebombs, rocks and clubs. According to press reports, four government officials, six police officers and about a dozen residents were injured, some seriously. Government offices were occupied, a police station was burned to the ground and two vehicles were destroyed. Villagers also stripped five government officials to their underpants and forced them to stand in the streets before freeing them two hours later.

About 2,500 riot police, backed by armored vans firing tear gas, recaptured government offices but were forced to retreat as villagers throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails attacked. Police launched a pre-dawn attack the following day. When hundreds of people again tried to rally in the afternoon, police attacked with tear gas. By late in the day, about 3,000 riot police had fanned out to restore order among the island residents. (News reports give conflicting numbers of people living on the island, 23,000 in some cases and 50,000 in others.) Hundreds of firebombs, anti-government posters, leaflets and containers of paint thinner were confiscated, according to police. About half the island shops and businesses were closed. Seventy-three people were arrested. News reports said most students stayed away from classes Friday and dozens of residents staged a sit-in at town offices demanding the release of those jailed.

According to one Associated Press report, law enforcement authorities say they are investigating if "radical dissidents such as student activists played a role in touching off the violent protests." And Prime Minister Kang Young-hoon has ordered "tough punishment for law breakers." (Unfortunately, he was not referring to the Ministry of Science & Technology...)

This is the second time that the government has been forced to cancel plans to construct a nuclear waste dump because of public protests. Last year, the government scrapped a similar project in the Ulchin-Youngil area on the east coast after thousands of villagers protested. Past protests involved peaceful rallies or minor clashes.

The protests have dealt a serious blow to the government's plan to build South Korea's first nuclear waste repository by 1995, when temporary storage facilities at each of South Korea's nine operating plants are expected to be full. Officials said about 2,100 tons of LLW and MLW are piling up each year. And more is expected. South Korea has plans to build more reactors. The government says it will run out of storage facilities by 1994.


  • Nucleonics Week (US), 15 Nov. 1990
  • Associated Press (South Korea), 9 Nov. 1990
  • UPI (South Korea), 9 Nov. 1990.

Contact: WISE-Tokyo, c/o PRIEE, B. Kaikan 7-26-24, Shinjuku, Shin-jukuku, Tokyo, Japan, tel: (81) 3-202 80 31.

South Korea's anti-nuclear power movement grows

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 22, 1990) Despite the fact that the nuclear power industry is in decline worldwide, South Korea announced plans in May 1989 to go ahead with the construction of two strongly contested new reactors (Yeong-gwang 3 and 4) and to build 56 more by the year 2031. South Korea already has nine operating reactors.

(334.3336) WISE Amsterdam - The South Korean nuclear power industry, which is dependent on the US, France, and Canada, is riddled with scandal and Incidents of contamination. For instance, when the Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO) entered into a contract to build the two Yeong-gwang reactors and supply them with nuclear fuel, it chose the US company Combustion Engineering (CE) because CE quoted a lower construction price. Later it became clear that the choice was influenced by large scale bribery involving both the Korean and US administrations. Another bidder, Westinghouse Co., had put in a much lower bid (US $180 million as against CE's $269 million).

Until now, Korean nuclear reactors have been built according to the safety regulations of the foreign nations that built them. This is not true of the new Yeong-gwang reactors. CE failed to obtain the safety guarantee which nuclear facilities are supposed to be issued by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the models for the planned reactors do not follow the 'Proven Design Concept' and the model's reactor pressure-vessel and steam generators have been found to be defective. Nevertheless, the government began construction, without notice, in December 1989. That decision, along with the suspicions of bribery, have lead to further suspicions that the forced construction of the reactors benefits only a few in power while endangering the lives of many.

In April 1989, a month prior to the government's announcement to build Yeong-gwang 3 and 4, sixteen South Korean anti-nuclear power and environmental organizations came together to form Korea's first national anti-nuclear power coalition. The coalition, named the "National Headquarters for the Nuclear Power Eradication Movement", was set up to fight the construction of the two Yeong-gwang reactors. In September 1989 it began a "One Million Signature Campaign" and had already collected 160,000 signatures as of February 1990.

The event which led to the coalition's formation was one of a series of protests following the discovery of illegal dumping of radioactive wastes in Changan Village, Yangsan County, Gyongnam, near the Kori nuclear power plant in December of 1988. People living near the plant began the strong protest actions after discovery of the dump was made public, and in March of 1989 held a protest In which they used over 30 tractors to carry nuclear wastes to the Kori facility. They also held a die-In on a national highway, obstructing motor traffic for up to two and a half hours. Government authorities tried to end the Incident by charging the Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO), the Kori plant operators, a small fine for illegal disposal. However, immediately following this, on 8 April 1989, illegally dumped drums of radioactive wastes were again found In Changan Village When village residents occupied KEPCO's main office in Seoul four days later in protest, the police responded aggressively, arresting 28 people and severely injuring an old woman with a tear gas grenade.

Although South Korea's anti-nuclear power movement sees that Its biggest task right now is to stop construction of the Yeong-gwang reactors, it has other concerns as well. One matter that came under consideration last year was a rumor that a radioactive waste disposal facility is being planned for Yondok on South Korea's east coast. Opposition to this plan has quickly built up.

According to Ahn Jung-Sun of the Korea Anti-Pollution Movement Association, the movement is being fueled by recent reports of abnormal babies being born to families where the father had worked at a nuclear power plant. Last year a baby was born without a brain (see WISE News Communique 317.2174), and only this March, a baby was born with a huge head without bones. Ahn Jung-Sun spoke of these tragedies at a three-day anti-nuclear festival held in Tokyo on April 27 through 29. She said that in Korea, the movement against nuclear power plants Is felt to be a movement against nuclear arms as well "This is because we believe they are two sides of the same hand. For the peace of our peninsula, we want neither nuclear arms nor nuclear power plants." She also expressed surprise after participating in a demonstration march to the Japanese Diet, saying, "I was astonished to find mothers with small children taking part. In Korea, I always take my 5-year-old daughter to peaceful demonstrations, but we are always besieged by the fearsome riot police, and I never see any other mothers with children. The social situation is such that it is very difficult for mothers to being their children on demonstrations."

Even while she was participating in the Japanese festival, back home In Korea during Earth Day events riot police were preventing 5,000 demonstrators from marching more than one kilometer outside the park from which they intended to march in protest against all nuclear power plants.

Sources: "Nuke Info Tokyo", May/June 1989, No.11, Sep/Oct 1989, No.13, May/June 1990, No.17.

Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, 3F Watanabe Bldg., Higashiueno 2-23-22, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110, Japan, tel: 03-832-1976, fax: 03-832-4930.