Press Release

Nearly 70% of South Koreans against Fukushima release: poll

  • 2023-10-13
  • Ryotaroh Satoh (Nikkei Asia)

Only about 8.5% have positive view of Kishida, but an improvement on 2022

More than two-thirds of South Koreans oppose Japan's release of treated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, according to a poll released on Thursday.

The annual Japan-South Korea joint survey conducted by Genron NPO, a Japanese think tank, and South Korea's East Asia Institute, another think tank, found that nearly 69% of South Koreans oppose the release.

That broke down to 39% who believed Japan should not release the treated water "regardless of the scientific examination by the International Atomic Energy Agency," and nearly 30% who said the IAEA examination could not be trusted. The IAEA gave an environmental green light to Japan's plan to release the water in July.

Only 7% of Japanese respondents opposed the release, while over 70% had a favorable opinion of it. Among the latter, over 47% trusted the IAEA but believed the Japanese government should "make more effort to resolve the distrust of the international community," and over 25% said the Japanese government's decision was "appropriate."

"Even with the effort from the South Korean president [to calm concerns about the release], public opinion recognizes it as a problem," said Yasushi Kudo, president of Genron.

Despite the domestic pushback, President Yoon Suk Yeol's administration has accepted Japan's decision to release the treated water. He even announced a daily meal of seafood to persuade the public that they would be safe, which contrasts with China's stance: Beijing suspended all seafood imports from Japan in August.

The annual survey was conducted in August and September among citizens from the two countries aged 18 and over. There were 1,008 valid responses from South Korea and 1,000 from Japan.

Over 32% of Japanese said they have a "very good" or "somewhat good impression" of Yoon, which was up by 12 percentage points from last year. Meanwhile, only about 8.5% of South Koreans have a favorable opinion of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida -- and that was up nearly 2 percentage points from 2022.