Friday, October 9, 2015

Fukushima and Korea's green vs nuclear dilemma

Some of you may wonder what the accompanying photo from the Fukushima nuclear disaster exclusion zone (click to see a full size version) has to do with a blog on Korea's digital development.  Actually, it has a lot to do with it.  Back in 1980, Korea was facing desperate circumstances, politically, economically and socially.  It was at that point that it embarked on digitization and modernization of its basic nationwide telephone network, to augment a commitment already underway to build a strong education infrastructure.  As a resource-poor nation, utterly destroyed by the Korean War, South Korea had little choice but to pursue these paths.  The choice to rely heavily on nuclear energy was made for similar, very rational reasons.
However, those early energy policy choices have come under public and policy questioning in recent years.  The Korean government shifted decisively to a green growth policy during the first decade of the new millennium.  Subsequently, the Fukushima disaster had a profound impact on public and policy support for nuclear energy here in Korea.  Fresh seafood is a part of daily life in Korea, and much of it comes from waters surrounding Japan and the Korean peninsula. Consequently, the question of possible radiation contamination of seafood purchased in Korea's largest seafood markets was a dominant concern in the mainstream media here for months after Fukushima.
When it comes to public and policy support for nuclear energy in South Korea, the picture has become more complex.  To illustrate, I recommend a current article in The Diplomat by a Harvard Kennedy School researcher.  Photographs, such as the one used with this post, capture dimensions that need to be included in the policy debate.  More on this issue in future posts.

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