News / Asia

S. Korea Charges 100 Officials Over Nuclear Reactor Corruption

FILE - Employees of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. walk inside the company's Seoul office after prosecutors seized documents and computer hard drives in South Korea.
FILE - Employees of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. walk inside the company's Seoul office after prosecutors seized documents and computer hard drives in South Korea.
Daniel Schearf
South Korea has charged 100 officials and suppliers in its nuclear energy industry with corruption over faked safety certificates for nuclear reactor parts. The scandal, coming on the heels of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, has led to much criticism about how the nuclear industry is regulated.

Public prosecutors in South Korea have indicted at least 100 people after a months-long investigation into bribery in the nuclear power industry.

The scandal - South Korea's biggest in the nuclear industry - involved alleged collusion between parts suppliers and officials at state-run energy companies.

Two senior executives are among those charged: the former CEO at Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power and the vice president of Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

A minister in the government office of policy coordination, Kim Dong-yeon, announced the charges Thursday. He said they investigated 10 year's worth of safety certificates for parts at South Korea's 20 operating nuclear reactors.

He said 277 of those documents were found to be forged, and 7,733 parts relevant to the documents have been replaced.  He said necessary measures including safety reassessment have been completed for some of the parts.

A nearly completed investigation of three offline reactors and five currently under construction found more than 2,000 forged safety certificates. Authorities say almost all those parts have been replaced.

The probe also discovered South Korea's nuclear reactors had to be quickly shut down 128 times in the last decade because of faulty parts. It was not made clear if those parts were ones with fake safety certificates.

Suh Kune-yull, a professor at the department of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University, said the scale of the scandal is shocking.

But what is important, he said, is whether it is directly related to the safety of nuclear reactors or would cause an accident during operation. He said they are not related to such concerns, as faulty parts could only be a problem if there was an accident. However, "we cannot be relaxed," he said.

Analysts and officials say a culture of corruption was created as former nuclear regulatory and industry officials were allowed to swap jobs.

After the scandal broke last year, the government banned retirees of public enterprises from being re-hired by cooperative firms.

But Suh said that close relationship still poses a threat.

He said this pattern must be broken, but a shadow of it still remains. He said they could experience a disaster similar to Fukushima one day if the shadow is not removed completely.

Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant failed to withstand a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, resulting in meltdowns officials there are still struggling to contain.

Critics partly blame poor planning at Fukushima on the old ties in Japan's nuclear industry.

South Korean minister Kim said they are still investigating a further 21 former and current officials related to nuclear reactor corruption.

He said they hope the so-called nuclear mafia style behavior would be rooted out if strict investigations, law enforcement, and system improvements to prevent corruption continue.

South Korea's 23 nuclear power reactors supply about a third of the natural resource-poor country's electricity. But, Asia's fourth largest economy has battled to keep up with its growing demand for power.

The Fukushima disaster had already dropped support for nuclear power, and South Korea's own nuclear scandal is raising further questions.

But concerns about safety have not ruffled authorities in Seoul, who still plan to build another 16 nuclear reactors by the year 2030.

The widening corruption case has also embarrassed South Korea's efforts to expand its nuclear power business overseas.

Seoul won a $20 billion contract in 2009 to supply four reactors to the United Arab Emirates.

VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid