South Korea again bars Greenpeace staff from country to silence nuclear critics

Press release - 2012-10-08
Seoul, South Korea, 8 October 2012 - Greenpeace International nuclear campaigners have again been denied entry to South Korea, making it crystal clear the government in Seoul is trying to silence nuclear critics.

Jan Beranek, Greenpeace International energy team lead, and Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner, were stopped at Seoul's Incheon airport today and not allowed into the country, where they were due to present at a seminar on nuclear power and meet journalists.

Both of them had been allowed into South Korea in the past and no official reasons were given for today’s denial of access. In total, six staff from Greenpeace International and Greenpeace East Asia have been denied access to South Korea since last November.

Beranek is a long-time critic of nuclear power, while Teule is an expert on the risks of radiation and contamination. She has overseen several operations near the Fukushima nuclear disaster site in Japan to independently measure and sample radiation contamination.

“By not allowing us into the country to share our information on the Fukushima disaster and nuclear risks in other places, the South Korean government is making it crystal clear that it is targeting voices critical of nuclear power and silencing opposition to its nuclear plans,” said Beranek.

Beranek and Teule were invited into South Korea by the group Joint Action for a Nuclear-Free Society, which represents about 40 Korean civic groups, to present at a seminar on the danger of operating the Canadian CANDU nuclear reactor.

The Korean government is pursuing an extension to the operating life of the CANDU in Wolsong, one of the oldest reactors of this type in the world. The seminar was to be followed by a joint news conference.

“The South Korean government has again tarnished its image as a democracy by silencing nuclear opposition," said Teule. “Once again, we see that nuclear power and democracy don't mix.”

The denial of access comes just days after two 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors at separate South Korean plants were shut down for systems malfunctions. The shutdowns sparked demands for a safety review.

In addition, South Korea will host a pre-meeting later in October of the UN climate conference in Doha, and at the same time a meeting of the Global Green Growth Institute. The government is expected to use these stages to greenwash its nuclear industry.

“The refusal to allow Greenpeace nuclear experts to attend and present at an anti-nuclear meeting raises the question: What is the South Korean government trying to hide from the Korean public about its nuclear program,” said Pino Lee, nuclear campaigner in Korea with Greenpeace East Asia.

“The catastrophic impacts of a nuclear accident, such as Fukushima, and the constant risk posed by nuclear reactors must be discussed. People are at risk, including South Korean citizens, and they must know about the dangers they face from reactors.”

South Korea aspires to expand its role in the world nuclear industry. The country has 23 reactors with four more under construction. In addition, the government recently officially designated two new sites for eight more reactors. It is contracted to build four reactors in the U.A.E., with the first expected to come on line in 2017.  It has targeted Turkey, Jordan, Romania, South Africa, Indonesia and Ukraine as candidates for its reactor technology. South Korea is also marketing its technology in other African, Middle East and South East Asia nations.

“Korea is investing in dangerous nuclear technology when it could be replacing nuclear with renewable energy,” concluded Beranek. “Instead of allowing a full discussion of the terrible risks of nuclear power, the government chooses to silence critics and try to hide the concerns.”

In April, Greenpeace East Asia released a renewable energy scenario for Korea, the Energy [R]evolution, that shows how Korea can phase out nuclear energy by 2030, while also cutting greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs and saving $4 billion US a year in investment and fuel costs.

Last year, media reported that South Korea would spend $9 million US to counter the work of Greenpeace and other non-governmental organisations.


International media: Greg McNevin, Greenpeace International Communications,  +81 80 5416 6507

Korean media: Junghoon Choi, Greenpeace East Asia Communications, Seoul,  + 82 10 4089 6980

Jan Beranke, Greenpeace International Energy Team Lead,
+31 6 51 109 558

Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International nuclear expert,
  +31 6 2883 3207

Pino Lee, Greenpeace East Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner, Seoul,

Greenpeace International Press Desk Hotline, Amsterdam +31 20 7182470


South Korean reactors shut down:

Lessons from Fukushima report, for an analysis of the industry and governmental failures that led to the disaster:

Energy [R]evolution: The Energy Revolution E[R] is a science-based energy outlook that provides a detailed practical blueprint for cutting carbon emissions while achieving economic growth by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and energy efficiency. A special E[R] report for Korea was launched in April 2012: International version:

Spending on surveillance of Greenpeace and other non-governmental organisations: “The announcement that it would open its Korean office and anti-nuclear protests seemed enough to make the authorities here watchful of future Greenpeace actions. According to local news media, the Korea Nuclear Energy Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Knowledge Economy will seek to set aside 10 billion won ($9.3 million) next year to beef up the publicity of nuclear energy safety.”

Fukushima discussion: On 4 October, Beranek also took part by video conference in a discussion about nuclear power with Korean parliamentarians, students and activists. He outlined the impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on the nuclear industry and the related decline in investments, especially in contrast with the increase in investments in the already much larger market for renewable energy technologies.

Greenpeace staff denied access to South Korea:

  1. Jan Beranek, Greenpeace energy team leader, 8 October 2012
  2. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace nuclear campaigner, 8 October 2012
  3. Gavin Edwards, Greenpeace East Asia Climate and Energy manager for the Seoul office, 20 April 2012
  4. Dr. Mario Damato, Executive Director of Greenpeace East Asia, 2 April 2012
  5. Fung Ka Keung, organisational support and regional development director, Greenpeace East Asia, November 2011 and April 2012
  6. Rashid Kang, organisational development manager for Seoul office, Greenpeace East Asia, November 2011 and April 2012