[VIEWPOINT]Time for truth on nuclear wasteWhen do people lie? When they want to win the affections of the opposite sex? When they are running for office? When they are being questioned for wrongdoing? There is one occasion that must not be counted out and that is when they are involved in a lawsuit.
It is very rare that a lawsuit is won or lost based only on a matter of legal interpretations or legal theories. The outcome of a lawsuit is more often decided by what the court sees as having occurred. It is common in lawsuits that the two parties claim the opposite, such as the plaintiff claiming that he lent money to the defendant and the defendant denying it. Lawsuits get worse when there is a lack of concrete evidence. The court must decide which side is telling the truth and which is lying, that is, whether the money was indeed loaned or not, and make its judgment based on this decision. In fact, lawsuits are a system in which it is expected that more than one of the parties is lying.
In a lawsuit where people are expected to be lying, the parties bear the burden of proving that what they are saying is the truth (even when it is not) and that what the other is saying is a lie (even when it may not be). In lawsuits, parties are required to tell the full truth and not to hold back any evidence in order to prevent any false statements from distorting the truth.
Since the beginning, the Roh administration has announced its policies on several matters. In many cases, public opinion was deeply divided on the government’s policies. There had been conflicts between the two sides, street rallies and even crimes involving violence and threats against members of the other side. In its effort to collect public opinion in order to form a national consensus for the establishment and implementation of desirable policies, the government consequently ended up deepening the strife among the people and putting society into more confusion. Why was this so?
Let’s take the example of the construction of a radioactive waste treatment facility. The government announced that it could not delay the construction of the facility to safely dispose of the radioactive wastes that have been accumulating as the result of the nuclear power generation that started in 1978. It announced four locations as candidates for the facility. Environmental groups opposed the government’s plan to build the radioactive waste treatment facility, stating that the nuclear energy program, the radioactive wastes and the treatment facility were all dangerous.
The residents of the four areas named as potential facility sites opposed the plan and one resident physically held and assaulted the head of Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, the firm to be in charge of building the treatment facility, forcing him to sign a paper saying that the firm would not start construction.
Yet the government, without sufficiently explaining the reason for its change of energy policy to a more nuclear-oriented one and the necessity of building an additional nuclear energy plant, the two biggest reasons the environmental groups opposed the construction of the treatment facility, merely tried to persuade the people by showing them pictures of the radioactive wastes that were being left untreated due to the lack of adequate storage room and treatment facilities.
The environmental groups, while claiming that nuclear energy, radioactive wastes and the treatment facility are all dangerous, do not seem to be providing the answers to the people’s questions. Isn’t a treatment facility safer than the temporary storage facility that they are currently using to handle this highly hazardous material? Should we not build a treatment facility to prepare for the inevitable day when these temporary facilities will be filled up? If a treatment facility has to be built, when would be the time to start building it?
The government also has not provided an adequate explanation for why it could not implement its promise not to build nuclear-related facilties such as a nuclear energy plant in the areas in question, whereas the residents oppose the idea so fiercely as to use physical violence against a head of a nuclear power company.
As a result, most people only see this as a “not in my back- yard” issue. Neither the government nor the environmental groups can be said to have carried out in full their duty to tell the truth and the whole truth. The result, as we can all see, is a deepening distrust and strife.
The establishment and implementation of a policy and the opinions presented by the various constituents of society in the process of forming this policy should be directed towards the single goal of national interest.
Under this common goal, should we not carry out our duty to tell the truth and the whole truth even more earnestly than parties of a lawsuit?
* The writer is a lawyer. Translation by the JoonAng Daily staff.
by Cho Soo-jung