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Catholic pilgrims denounce nuclear power in Korea, Japan

Nuclear power plants remain vulnerable to crises like war and natural disasters, they warned

Catholic nuns hold anti-nuclear placards during an Aug. 28-31 pilgrimage for peace in South Korea

Catholic nuns hold anti-nuclear placards during an Aug. 28-31 pilgrimage for peace in South Korea. (Photo: Catholic Times)

Published: September 07, 2022 07:51 AM GMT

Updated: September 07, 2022 08:12 AM GMT

Korean and Japanese Catholic priests, religious, laypeople, and civil society activists joined a pilgrimage to urge the governments of South Korea and Japan to move away from nuclear power.

The 2022 Korea-Japan Nuclear Peace Pilgrimage was held on Aug. 28-31 with pilgrims touring the South Korean cities of Busan, Daejeon, and the capital Seoul, the Catholic Times of Korea reported on Sept. 6.

Sponsored by the Korean Catholic bishops’ Ecology and Environment Committee the pilgrimage went ahead with several slogans such as “Move forward for life and peace” and “Nuclear power generation is not the solution to the climate crisis.”

The 28-member pilgrimage team was led by Bishop Blasio Park Hyeon-dong, chairman of the committee, and Father Paul Paik Jong-yeon, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.

The tour ended at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul on Aug. 31 with a joint statement from church and civil society groups demanding that the South Korean and Japanese governments “stop extending the lifespan of old nuclear power plants” and “revoke construction plans for new nuclear power plants.” 

The pilgrims also pledged to lead the cessation of nuclear power generation and the abolition of nuclear weapons through solidarity between the citizens of both Korea and Japan.

"Nuclear power plants are vulnerable during crises such as war and natural disasters"

During the pilgrimage, the participants visited the nuclear power plants in Kori and Wolseong, Gyeongju, and the Daejeon Atomic Energy Research Institute, held a street campaign in solidarity with local anti-nuclear groups, and talked with the residents affected by the nuclear power plant. 

They also held two rounds of nuclear disarmament meetings to review the local community's nuclear disarmament movement and major nuclear issues between the two countries.

At the first meeting held at Gwanpyeong-dong Catholic Church in Daejeon, the activities of the Japanese Church in solidarity with the struggle against nuclear waste disposal in Hokkaido, Japan, and the nuclear power plant of Daejeon, and Gyeongju, where an innovative nuclear research complex is being built, were discussed.

At the second meeting held at the Catholic Center in Myeong-dong, Seoul, the problems of the Japanese government's high-level nuclear waste management policy and the Korean government's response to the climate crisis, and the importance of carbon-neutral and nuclear power priority policies were reviewed.

Seok Gwang-hoon, an expert at the Energy Conversion Forum, criticized the Yoon Seok-yeol government's energy policy which marked a U-turn from the nuclear phase-out policy of the previous Moon Jae-in government.

Seok pointed out that nuclear power plants are vulnerable during crises such as war and natural disasters and referred to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant accident and the recent Zaporizhzhia nuclear incident in Ukraine.

"We must raise our voices together for the nuclear disarmament movement"

Bishop Park expressed shock over the locations of power plants in densely populated areas.

“The fact that nuclear facilities are located in densely populated areas where so many people live is shocking,” Bishop Park said.

Philippine-born Bishop Edgar Gakutan of Sendai in Japan said people in Korea and Japan need to make united efforts against nuclear power and for disarmament.

"We must raise our voices together for the nuclear disarmament movement,” Bishop Gakutan said.

The Korea-Japan Nuclear Peace Pilgrimage started in 2012, a year after the radiation leak at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant sparked fear across the region. The pilgrimage was held online in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Korean Catholics have been up in arms against nuclear power plants and held a series of demonstrations to call for a gradual phase-out and the introduction of renewable energy.

Last year, Korean and Japanese bishops issued a joint statement against the Japanese government’s planned move to discharge contaminated water from the Fukushima plant into the sea.

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