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Assembly to hold hearings on Fukushima wastewater safety

Japan envoy vows to allay wastewater concerns with science, transparency

June 8, 2023 - 18:51 By Kim Arin
Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, the ruling People Power Party chairperson, meets with Koichi Aiboshi, the Japanese ambassador to South Korea, at the National Assembly building in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The South Korean National Assembly on Thursday agreed to launch a special committee and hold hearings on the safety inspection of wastewater from the now-defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The special committee will be headed by lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Korea, after a bill on its formation is passed at the plenary session next week.

Japan will “communicate closely” with Seoul and “strive to provide the Korean people with sincere explanations based on scientific evidence and principles of transparency,” Koichi Aiboshi, the Japanese ambassador to South Korea, said the same day.

“We recognize that there are continuing concerns in Korea about the treated water,” he said in a meeting with the leader of the ruling People Power Party, Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon.

“As Prime Minister (Fumio) Kishida said when he was in Seoul last month, the release will not take in a manner that could adversely affect the health of Japanese and Korean people or the environment.”

The ambassador said the on-site inspection by a team of South Korean experts had “full support” of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the concerned Japanese ministries.

The ruling party leader, Kim, said in response his party would “put the health and safety of our people before anything else.”

At the same time, he said the party would “not allow anti-science propaganda and fearmongering” in politics, which would not only hinder relations between the two countries, but cause damage to the fishing industry.

The Democratic Party Rep. Lee Jae-myung has called Japan releasing the treated wastewater from the wrecked nuclear plant “radiological terrorism.”

In a May 19 meeting of party leaders, he said the Yoon government was “busy trying to please Japan” and “feared to make South Korea complicit in the act of radiological terrorism.”

Kim called for reciprocation from Japan to bolster Yoon’s “bold steps.”

“I hope that these efforts will continue, and that there will come a time when a mutual understanding is reached and the people of two countries are brought together,” he said.

“The previously frigid relations between South Korea and Japan are finally thawing,” he said. “I believe that we are heading in the right direction.”

Since being elected head of the ruling party in March, Kim has met with the ambassadors to South Korea from the US, China, France, the UK and Australia.