Ask the peopleThe Moon Jae-in administration’s push for a nuclear phase-out policy is again raising controversy because of the public’s apparent opposition to the bold plan. This time, the controversy was triggered by the Korean Nuclear Society (KNS), a professional group of nuclear scientists and engineers. The KNS last week announced the results of a survey by Gallop Korea it commissined earlier. According to the survey of 1,006 Korean adults, 67.9 percent supported the idea of expanding or maintaining our nuclear reactors, while 28.5 percent wanted a reduction of nuclear power plants and the remaining 3.6 percent showed no response or answered that they don’t know.
After the release of the results of the survey, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy questioned its reliability. It criticized the survey for a lack of objectivity as it was conducted by a concerned party. The KNS refuted the argument, saying it asked Gallop Korea not to identify the name of the client. The nuclear society also proposed another survey by a neutral organization if the government does not agree to the results.
Looking back, the Moon administration has never asked the people about the legitimacy of its nuclear phase-out policy after it decided to resume the construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors in the face of public opposition. Though it is a critical issue that has a huge impact on people’s lives, the government skipped that pivotal process.
That’s not all. The government simply dismissed the results of a survey last year on 20,000 citizens. At the time, 44 percent backed the expansion or maintenance of nuclear reactors while 39.2 percent opposed it. Nevertheless, the government pressed ahead with its nuclear phase-out policy in sharp contrast with Germany, which gathered public opinions about its nuclear phase-out plan for over 20 years, and Switzerland, which held five referendums to reach a consensus. We wonder if the government really respects communications with the public, as it claims.
Meeting the demand for electricity supplies is so crucial that the government redraws its basic plans for supply every two years. The administration must first ask the public what to do with it. Otherwise, what happened in Taiwan last week can happen in Korea. Taiwanese voters dumped the progressive ruling party’s nuclear phase-out policy.
If an administration does not respect the majority, it cannot last. The Moon administration must learn lessons from Taiwan. The time has come for the government to see what the people really want before blindly pushing its nuclear phase-out policy.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 27, Page 30