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Protests against waste shipment from Taiwan to North Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(February 7, 1997) On January 11, Taiwan signed a contract with North Korea about the shipment of 60,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste in the next two years, with the option to ship another 140,000 barrels later on (see WISE NC 465.4622).

(466.4628) WISE Amsterdam - According to a statement of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), the waste would be stored in a closed mine in Pyungsan, Whanghaebukdo, which is bound to several problems.

It said in a statement on January 23: 'The underground water table can be infiltrated due to the carelessly developed tunnel and mining area. Furthermore, there is the danger of an earthquake as the mine is located near geographical faults. In addition, it will take at least five or ten years to build the treatment facilities for the nuclear waste. If 60,000 barrels of waste is dumped for two years, it will only be discarded as a waste in a closed mine with its little or no facilities.' Taipei will pay its cash-starved counterpart US$1,150 per barrel. Taiwan's own nuclear waste dump on Lanyu island has nearly reached its capacity of 98,112 barrels and, surrendering to anti-nuclear protests, was promised to be emptied by 2002.

Since the contract was made public on January 13, there have been international protests, especially in South Korea, but in Japan and in the US. South Korean Foreign Minister Yoo Chong-ha warned of 'political and economic' measures if Taiwan fails to withdraw its plan. He said the issue could develop into the hottest diplomatic row between Seoul and Taipei since they severed ties in 1992. South Korean officials were quoted to be considering the use of armed forces, if diplomatic means fail.

On January 29, six environmental activists began a hunger strike in Taipei to pressure the Taiwanese government to stop the deal. 'The Taiwan government is trying to solve its mounting waste problem by profiting from the serious famine in North Korea,' Jang Won, leader of Green Korea, one of the organizers of the demonstration, said in a statement.

And in South Korea, there were several demonstrations, in which Taiwanese flags and effigies of the Taiwan president were burned. On January 28, North Korean advisers visited the Taiwan nuclear waste dump at Lanyu island. North Korea is to be in charge of the transports, the first of which will take place as early as February, local media reported.


  • Reuter, 27, 28, 29 January 1997
  • Korean Times, 23 January 1997
  • KPS, 24 January 1997
  • Statement from KFEM, 23 January 1997

Contact: KFEM, #251, Nooha-dong, Chongno-Gu, Seoul, 110-042, South Korea;
Fax: +82-2-730-1240