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DPK leader gains popularity in China for hunger strike against Fukushima water release

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Rep. Lee Jae-myung, right, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, holds hands with then DPK floor leader Rep. Park Kwang-on at a hospital in Seoul, Sept. 21, on the 22nd day of his hunger strike. Joint Press Corps

By Lee Hyo-jin

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung is gaining belated popularity among Chinese internet users for his hunger strike launched earlier this year to protest the Yoon Suk Yeol government's handling of state affairs.

Chinese internet users have been drawn to Lee's hunger strike, because one of the main reasons for his action was to call on the Yoon government to oppose Japan's release of treated wastewater from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Lee ended his 24-day hunger strike on Sept. 23, but his protest is drawing belated attention in mainland China amid strong anti-Japanese sentiment there sparked by Tokyo's discharge of treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

Dozens of short videos have been uploaded showing Lee during his hunger strike on the Chinese social media platform, Douyin.

One of the videos showing the DPK leader on the 15th day of his hunger strike garnered nearly 2 million likes and over 200,000 comments, mostly supporting Lee. Another video of a local news report about Lee's hunger strike gathered nearly 1 million likes and 100,000 comments.

In the comment section, Chinese internet users hailed him as a hero fighting against Japan. Some comments read, "Koreans should be happy to have a man like Lee in their country," and "He is the bravest Korean I have ever seen."

When launching the hunger protest on Aug. 31, Lee made three demands – a public apology from Yoon for ruining democracy; the government's open opposition to Japan's release of wastewater from the nuclear power plant and a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle.

Although the Fukushima water release was not the only reason Lee launched the hunger strike, his protest seems to have gone viral in China due to deepening anti-Japanese sentiment there.

After Japan began releasing the treated wastewater from the Fukushima power plant on Aug. 24, the Chinese public responded with extreme anger on social media platforms and voiced intentions to boycott Japanese goods. Hundreds of hostile phone calls were made by Chinese nationals to Japanese institutions and government offices.


Lee Hyo-jin


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