South Korean students shave heads in protest over Japan's Fukushima plan

The protesters who were shaved were draped in protective sheets emblazoned with messages condemning the Japanese plan.
The protesters who were shaved were draped in protective sheets emblazoned with messages condemning the Japanese plan.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - More than 30 South Korean college students shaved their heads in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul on Tuesday (April 20) to protest against Japan's decision to release treated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

Police periodically dispersed crowds, who chanted and held placards, but did not stop the event from taking place, though there is an anti-pandemic ban on gatherings larger than 10 people.

The protesters who were shaved were draped in protective sheets emblazoned with messages condemning the Japanese plan and calling for it to be ditched.

One read: "The Japanese government should immediately cancel the plan to release the contaminated water."

Japan's government said last week it will release more than a million tonnes of treated water from the Fukushima site in stages starting in about two years.

United States climate envoy John Kerry on Sunday said he believed Japan had made the decision in a transparent manner and would continue to follow due procedures.

Seoul has strongly rebuked the decision, with its Foreign Ministry summoning the Japanese ambassador and President Moon Jae-in ordering officials to explore petitioning an international court.

South Korea's foreign minister Chung Eui-yong, however, has said his country has little reason to oppose Japan's plan to release radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima plant into the sea, should the plan abide by related International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards.

As reported by Yonhap news agency, Mr Chung made the remarks during a parliamentary session on Monday in response to a query by Representative Moon Jin-seog of the Democratic Party.

"If (Japan) follows the due processes under the standards of IAEA, (Seoul) has no particular reason to object," the foreign minister said.

Mr Chung also said Japan should meet three conditions, including providing enough scientific evidence and information while sharing said information; having sufficient consultations in advance; and guaranteeing South Korea's participation in IAEA's safety verification process - in order to win Seoul's understanding on the matter.

"Rather than opposing the plan (outright), Seoul is relentlessly and consistently requesting  that Japan (accepts) those three things, while putting our top priority on (safeguarding) the health and safety of our people," the foreign minister noted.