South Korean police arrested 16 people on Thursday for entering a building housing the Japanese embassy in Seoul, carrying off and bundling some into a bus after banners were unfurled to protest Tokyo’s release of waste water from its Fukushima plant.
The protest came the day Japan began releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, a polarising move that prompted fresh, fierce criticism from around the region.
“The sea is not Japan’s trash bin,” read one of the banners hung by the group, made up mostly of young people, upon reaching the eighth floor of the building, where the embassy is located. “Stop releasing contaminated water at once.”
A Reuters photographer on the scene saw police officers physically carry and drag protesters from the building and bundle them into a bus.
A police officer at the Jongno police station in the South Korean capital said 16 people were arrested on charges of trespassing, accusing them of trying to break into the embassy.
About 50 people had gathered outside the embassy for the protest.
The Japanese embassy had advised its citizens on Tuesday not to approach Fukushima-related rallies in front of the embassy building, so as to “avoid getting into unnecessary trouble”.
South Korea has said it sees no scientific problems with the water release, but urged Tokyo to be transparent during the process, expected to last decades.
“What’s important now is whether Japan, as it promised to the international community, strictly follows the scientific standards and transparently provides information,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told a briefing.