South Korean Villagers Protest Against Nuclear Power Plant
16 November, 2012
South Korea is witnessing a number of protests including protest against nuclear power plants and construction of a naval base. At least one protest was like the Occupy Movement.
Thousands of villagers staged a protest outside one of South Korea's largest nuclear power plants on November 15, 2012. The protest is part of growing public concern in South Korea over safety standards of nuclear power plants after a series of scares and scandals in the country. In the area, three of the plant's six nuclear reactors are currently in shutdown. Hundreds of riot police and security officers were sent to the demonstration. No act of violence was reported.
A Seoul datelined AFP news report said on Nov 15, 2012:
About 2,500 villagers took part in the protest outside the Yeonggwang complex on the southwest coast.
Protesters with placards saying: "We feel uneasy!" set fire on an effigy representing the state-run nuclear operating agency KHNP. They called for an overall safety review of the plants.
Last week, the government shut down two reactors at Yeonggwang to replace thousands of "non-core" parts that had been provided with forged quality and safety warranties.
The shutdown prompted authorities to inspect components at all of the 23 reactors nationwide, which generate around 35 percent of the country's electricity.
The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission also extended the closure of a third Yeonggwang reactor after minor cracks were found during maintenance work on control rod tubes.
Although KHNP officials insisted there had never been any threat of a radiation leak, the incidents stoked safety concerns heightened by last year's nuclear disaster in Japan.
The government has vowed to stick to its nuclear power program despite the Fukushima crisis, and plans to build an additional 16 reactors by 2030.
Last month, authorities temporarily shut down two 1,000-megawatt reactors at separate nuclear plants after system malfunctions which were also blamed for another reactor at Yeonggwang being tripped into automatic shutdown in July.
In May, five senior engineers were charged with trying to cover up a potentially dangerous power failure at the country's oldest nuclear plant.
The Gori-1 reactor, built in 1978 near the southern city of Busan, briefly lost mains power on February 9 and the emergency generator failed to kick in. The power cut caused cooling water to stop circulating.
The government has warned that the current shutdown of the three Yeonggwang reactors could result in serious power shortages during the harsh South Korean winter.
A news report in The Korean Herald (http://nwww.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20121115000813) said:
Tension mounted in front of the iconic Deoksu Palace in central Seoul as rag-tag protesters vowed to defy a government order to end their months-long decampment or face eviction by police.
The “Protesters defy eviction order” headlined report by Kim Young-won and Sang Youn-joo said:
The November 15, 2012 report said:
The authorities delivered a notice November 14, 2012 that it would ask police to break up their protest tents and impose fines unless they take them down voluntarily within 15 days.
The roadside street beside the main gate of the palace is a symbolic epicenter for anti-government and labor demonstrations since 2009.
A short walk from City Hall, it is now occupied by laid-off workers of Ssangyong Motor, opponents of a naval base under construction on Jeju Island and families of five urban poor protesters killed in a clash with police in 2009.
“We’re not going to leave until the matters are resolved, and we’ll be out in the streets protesting without a tent if we have to,” Lee Won-ho, 32, a leader of an activist group for the truth about the Yongsan incident, told The Korea Herald.
The authorities cited complaints from foreign visitors and neighborhood merchants about disruption, inconvenience and damage to one of Seoul’s most popular tourist attractions.
“The camps are illegal,” said an official from the related department. “They also do not look good, especially since the illegal tents are set up in front of a tourist spot and in the middle of the capital Seoul.”
The workers set up a tent in April after submitting a notice of assembly to the police. However, they illegally pitched another that month, triggering clashes with the authorities.
Officials and riot police attempted to evict them in April and May but failed as the protesters fiercely resisted with inflammable materials.
The protesters threatened to fight against police attempts to demolish their shelters.
“We are here because this is a place where we can be seen and heard,” Moon Gi-ju, a unionist of Ssangyong, said.
“None of us are criminals, we’re all ordinary people. Nobody wants to sleep out here in these tents if they can help it,” said Lee Mi-hyeon, 34, a member of the Nationwide Association against the Jeju Naval Base Construction.
“But we will not give up easily just because we were told to take our tents down.”
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