South Korean police on Thursday arrested a large number of protesters demonstrating outside the Japanese embassy against the Japanese government’s dumping of treated radioactive water into the ocean. Japan has faced harsh criticism from many neighboring countries over this decision despite the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) support. Multiple news outlets report that 16 protesters were arrested on suspicion of trespassing on embassy land and attempting to break into the embassy.
The water in question originated from the 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster, which saw the worst nuclear disaster since Chornobyl take place due to the earthquake and tsunami that hit the region. The resulting clean-up has led to Japan treating the water that was contaminated and then dumping it back into the ocean. This has led many countries to question the effect that the water will have on the already fragile marine environment of the Pacific. There is also significant concern that this dumping could set a precedent as to how other nations in the future dump their nuclear waste.
Despite the IAEA director general making multiple statements saying the dumping would not be harmful and the IAEA having staff oversee the dumping, countries that are dependent on a healthy Pacific Ocean, such as China and many Pacific nations, remain skeptical that due diligence has been done. South Korea was one of the most vocal nations to oppose the dumping, with over 80% of its population being against this decision. This most recent protest was one of many organized. These protests have become increasingly charged recently with police having to drag people away in order to arrest them in this particular case. While most South Koreans are firmly against the actions taken by Japan, the South Korean government states that as long as Japan is transparent and follows a good scientific process there is no reason to fear the dumping.