A new state committee has launched tasked with gauging public sentiment on whether to permanently suspend the construction of two nuclear reactors.
Former Supreme Court justice and incumbent attorney Kim Ji-hyung has been appointed as committee chair. He's known to be well versed in labor law and industrial disasters.
The Office for Government Policy Coordination on Monday announced the list of the nine-member committee consisting of eight experts in respective areas of humanities and social sciences, science and technology, polling and statistics, and conflict management.
After receiving certificates of appointment from Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, the committee members held their first meeting.
Energy experts and any stakeholders of nuclear power plants have been excluded from the committee, which includes three women and three members in their 30s.
The government originally tasked the committee with convening a citizen's jury to decide on whether or not to permanently suspend the construction of the Shin-Kori 5 and 6 reactors in Ulsan, saying it will abide by any conclusion reached through the committee's operation.
However, the committee said Thursday it will limit its role to gathering opinions only and hand the information over to the government for a final decision.
The committee is planning to conduct a provisional public poll on around 20- thousand South Koreans across the country, and then to refine the survey by randomly selecting 350 people from the first poll. The deadline for the final decision is October 21, which is 90 days after the committee's launch.
During campaigning, then candidate President Moon Jae-in vowed to scrap the country's nuclear-centered energy policy. In a follow-up late last month, the government decided to temporarily suspend the construction of the two reactors, saying it will let the public decide on whether to move forward with the construction through an up to 3-month-long public discussion.
On June 19, South Korea's oldest nuclear reactor the Kori-1 was permanently shut down.
The Shin-Kori 5 and 6 were initially sought to be completed by 2022 and 2023. Some 1.6 trillion won has gone into the project so far. If construction is suspended, the government estimates total costs including compensation fees would reach some 2.6 trillion won.
But those opposing a suspension argue the loss shouldered by companies and local communities will be much larger, in addition to aggravated concerns in power supply and demand.
Pundits say the success or failure of the committee depends on the issue of fairness. In other words, the final decision should be supported by the majority of the public.