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South Korea

Activists from Japan, Korea walk for nuclear free future

Pilgrimage occurred not long after strong earthquakes triggers safety concerns

ucanews.com reporter, Seoul

ucanews.com reporter, Seoul

Published: September 29, 2016 07:40 AM GMT

Updated: September 29, 2016 08:23 AM GMT

Activists from Japan, Korea walk for nuclear free future

Church activists hold a press conference before starting their pilgrimage in front of Kori Nuclear Power Plant in Busan on Sept. 20. (Photo by The Catholic Times of Korea)

Activists from churches in Japan and Korea conducted a three-day pilgrimage where they visited South Korean nuclear power plants to raise awareness about its  threat to people and the environment.

A total of 60 anti-nuclear pilgrims, including 14 from Japan, walked to the sites of several South Korean nuclear power plants Sept. 20-23.

They began their pilgrimage in Busan, the location of Korea's oldest nuclear reactor, and walked to Samcheok, where other reactors are currently being built.

During their journey they met with local residents and other activists concerned about the safety of the power plants in the country recently hit by its strongest earthquake on record.

Two earthquakes — of magnitude 5.1 and 5.8 — struck the country's southeast on Sept. 12 and resulted in government officials temporarily suspending the operations of four nuclear reactors at a power plant, reported Reuters.

On the last day of the pilgrimage, the activists held an open discussion session at the Catholic Center in Myeongdong, Seoul. Jesuit Father Mitsunobu Ichiro, president of the Jesuit Social Apostolate of the Japan Province, said he was shocked that the nuclear power plants were near to so many people.

"Sharing the same problems, the churches in Japan and Korea must cooperate to open up a new world," said Father Ichiro.

Jesuit Father Cho Hyun-chul, President of the Jesuit Social Apostolate of the Korea Province, stressed the spirituality of the anti-nuclear energy movement. "To change policies, we need to change our lifestyles, beginning with our own spirit," said the priest.

The Jesuit Social Apostolate of the Korea Province organized the pilgrimage, which was sponsored by the Korean Bishops Committee for Ecology and Environment. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan and the Jesuit Social Apostolate of the Japan Province also partnered on the project.

The two Jesuit provinces have organized such pilgrimages since 2012, but this was the first such held in Korea.

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South Korea has 25 nuclear power plants that supply one-third of the country's electricity.

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