By Kim Kyung-Hoon

Near midnight on March 12th, 2011, I was looking for Fukushima evacuees who had fled from towns near the nuclear power plant hit by a massive tsunami and earthquake the day before, and was now leaking radiation.

On hearing the warnings of meltdown and radiation leaks at the nuclear plant, my colleagues and I drove west from Fukushima airport where we landed by helicopter with two very simple goals: stay as far away as possible from the nuclear power plant, and find the evacuees.

However, there was no clear information where to find the evacuees and how far away we had to stay from the nuclear plant to ensure our safety in the panicky and chaotic situation.

After asking around for several hours in Koriyama city in Fukushima Prefecture, we found out that all the evacuees were getting radiation checks before they could be admitted to evacuation centers. When we got to the makeshift inspection station, which was set up at Koriyama Sports Complex, what we encountered was more like a scene from a sci-fi movie. Officials in protective suits from head to toe were scanning the refugees to check whether they were radioactive.

The evacuees were standing in a long line waiting for the radiation test. What I saw in their eyes was terror and anger at their government’s inefficiencies. Several people who had been tested for radioactivity had been separated from the group and they were sitting on the ground with despairing and puzzled looks as they waited for decontamination.