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 Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid