4. Demands for Resettlement

Chapter 4: India, Malaysia, Korea
Part 3: South Korea’s Poisonous Emissions

The first thing to catch our eye as we entered the village was the digital display which proclaimed a radiation level of 0.008 millirems.

"We don't know if that's the real figure or not," grumbled Nam Ki-Dong, deputy chairman of the Hyoam Resettlement Committee. The display was hurriedly erected by the power corporation in April 1989 for the purpose of monitoring radiation levels.

"Who's going to trust them when they secretly bury radioactive rubbish and then say there's no contamination?" Nam continued. The 178 households of Hyoam village, who want to move away from the Kori plant, have little confidence in the Korea Electric Power Corporation.

From the end of 1988 through to the following April, yellow drums filled with waste, protective clothing, gloves, and other rubbish from the power plant were discovered buried in the hills and in the remains of an industrial reservoir in the village. On a tip-off from one of the plant employees, the whole village turned out to dig up the secretly buried waste. The power corporation continues to insist that the material is not radioactive. This has been confirmed regarding a portion of the material; the rest of it is currently being analyzed by the Ministry of Science.

On April 12, 1989, over a thousand angry people, including those from the nearby village of Kilcheon, loaded the drums onto their tractors and held a demonstration outside the Kori plant. Five men including the chairman of the Kilcheon resettlement committee were arrested and charged with obstructing the operations of the plant.

"It's not that I oppose all nuclear power plants, it's just that I don't want to live next to one that has such a slapdash attitude to safety as this." Nam himself was found guilty and is currently appealing the verdict. The demands of the residents near Kori do not stop with resettlement. In June 1989, approximately three hundred villagers received medical examinations at the power corporation's Hanil Hospital, situated on the company housing estate. The results showed no incidence of radiation-linked diseases, but Nam dismisses the examinations as careless and far from accurate. Not only were people's weights and heights recorded incorrectly in a number of cases, but Nam also claims that results were produced for people who had not even been examined.

The same animosity could be seen between corporation officials and local residents in Seongsan, where the Yeonggwang plant was blamed for a child's deformed ankles and the miscarriage of two anencephalic babies. If anything the reaction against the power corporation was even stronger there.

"The fact is that children with defects appeared after their fathers had worked at a nuclear power plant. Everything has a cause, and in this case, we think radiation is the cause. It's the people from the corporation who are being one-sided, with their insistence on fixing compensation at a level that suits them," said Kim Sang-Il, chairman of the Seongsan Resettlement and Budget Committee.