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Cutting the last lifeline

Dec 18,2018
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Lawmakers of the opposition Liberty Korea Party launch a nationwide campaign to oppose the Moon Jae-in administration’s nuclear phase-out policy. [NEWS1]
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Chun Young-gi
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

As President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating slides, the anti-Moon movement has gained momentum. Conservatives, both extremists and centrists, as well as some progressive groups, are joining forces to resist the atypical political agendas and approaches of the liberal administration. The campaign has support from Cho Won-jin, an outright loyalist to ousted President Park Geun-hye, and former centrist presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, said Na Kyung-won, floor leader of the conservative main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP).

The anti-Moon movement aims to stir negative sentiment toward the president and lacks a positive or forward-looking goal. Yet the president must not take the broad nonpartisan movement against him lightly. If the Blue House and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) do not respond to the new developments wisely, the movement could become dangerous very quickly.

Last week, a group in the National Assembly library launched a campaign to draw 1 million signatures from citizens to correct the misled public perception toward nuclear reactors and sustain nuclear energy. The campaign is not out to protest the Moon administration, but to oppose its policy to phase out nuclear power. Its aim is to stop the rash and rigid government policy to go nuclear free in a country that has no natural resources for power or other economically-practical and sustainable electricity sources.

By Sunday, the fourth day of the campaign, the petition was already signed by 75,000 people. There were several individual petitions against the nuclear phase-out policy, but the latest is drawing public support at an explosive pace. Many have begun to doubt power security without nuclear reactors. Nuclear engineering majors whose career prospects have dimmed due to the loss of reactors and Uljin County residents whose community has been wrecked by the suspension of the construction of the two reactors will go on a nationwide tour to get signatures. If they get 1 million signatures, the government will inevitably have to reconsider its plan to discontinue the project.

The launch of the campaign was joined not just by LKP members, but also politicians from the Bareunmirae Party and Justice Party. A 61-year-old environmental activist from Gwangju — the support base for the ruling DP — claimed that going nuclear free is inviting doom on the nation.

Shin Kwang-jo, co-head of the campaign, introduced himself as a former student activist who went to the same high school as Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon. He spent his savings on a full-page ad in the Hankyoreh, a leftist newspaper.

In a public challenge to the prime minister, Shin asked why the government was out to discourage science and technology advances and darken the prospects for the future. He claimed a future-oriented energy sourced by mixing nuclear and solar power should be the direction for the country to secure clean fuel and energy security. He lashed out at why the administration was dumping nuclear power that has provided cheap electricity and helped our industrial development without a single accident over the last 45 years.

The government is out to scrap the Shin Hanul 3, 4 reactor construction projects that have already broken ground in Uljin. The future of the reactors is at stake. If they are not built, engineers and the supply chain of the nuclear reactor industry will be lost beyond repair. Even if South Korea’s reactor technology is sold overseas or adopted for commercial use in North Korea, supplies at home will come to cease. Once the lifeline is cut, an industry cannot be revived. The desperate action to save the Shin Hanul 3 and 4 reactors picked up on the brink of their death sentence.

If the petition can change the president’s mind, the alliance against Moon will find no reason to exist. The Shin Hanul reactors should be saved.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 17, Page 34