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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs