Japan’s neighbors share fear and frustration over the radioactive water leak
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Kim Mi-jeong, a Seoul official, says she plans to stop eating seafood because she has strong doubts about the safety of dumping radioactive wastewater from Japan’s nuclear power plant into the sea.
“We need to reduce our consumption of seafood altogether. “In fact, we can’t eat it,” Kim said. “I cannot accept the Japanese plan because it is too unilateral and without countermeasures.”
Many foreign experts have said that the water leakage has little impact on the environment and human health. The International Atomic Energy Agency also said it had experts on the ground to ensure the release went ahead as planned. But with Thursday’s rollout, the public’s fears and frustrations were shared among its Asian neighbors, where many still resent Japan’s World War II aggression.
In response to this post, China banned the import of seafood to Japan. Commerce Ministry spokesman Shu Jueting called the waiver “extremely selfish and irresponsible” and said it would cause “unpredictable harm and damage to the global marine environment.”
Hong Kong and Macau have announced seafood bans from Fukushima and nine other Japanese prefectures. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called the release a “crime against humanity” and said Japan would bear full responsibility for its “catastrophic consequences.”
South Korean police on Thursday arrested 16 student activists who tried to break into the Japanese embassy to protest their release. According to the police, the activists entered the embassy building, shouted slogans and raised banners, but could not enter the embassy offices.
In South Korea, internal political conflicts arose due to its government’s approval of the Japanese plan. Liberal critics have accused the conservative government under President Yoon Suk-yeol of trying to improve relations with Japan at the expense of public health.
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“The Yun Suk-yeol government and the ruling People’s Power Party are complicit in the dumping of sewage,” said Kwon Chil-sen, a spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party.
The ruling party has accused the opposition of stoking anti-Japanese sentiment and public fear for political purposes, undermining South Korea’s national interests and pushing players in the domestic fisheries and produce sectors overboard.
The Yoon government and the Democratic Party have fought bitterly over another Japanese issue: Yoon’s controversial decision to take a major step toward easing historic grievances against Korean forced laborers during Japan’s colonial era. The Democratic Party accused Yun of making concessions to Japan without taking action. Yoon argues that improved relations with Japan are necessary because of shared challenges, such as North Korea’s advanced nuclear arsenal and the growing rivalry between the United States and China.
Yun administration officials have tried to allay public concerns by expanding radiation testing of seafood at major fish markets. Last month, some ruling party lawmakers even drank seawater from aquariums at a seafood market in Seoul to emphasize food safety.
But a survey of South Koreans found that more than 80% of respondents were opposed to Japan’s spill plan, and more than 60% said they would not eat seafood after the spill began. .
“I am completely against the Japanese project. “Radioactive sewage is really bad,” said Lee Jae-kyung, a resident of Seoul. “My feelings for Japan grew stronger because of the sewage. »
Fears about sewage are weighing heavily on some seafood companies in South Korea.
Kim Hae-cheol, a fishmonger at a seafood market in the southeastern port of Busan, said his income has halved in a matter of months and he fears his business will suffer further after the spill.
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“I had no clients today. In recent years, I sold 400,000 to 500,000 won ($300 to $380) worth of fish at that time on a normal day,” Kim said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “Others in this market also had fewer customers today.”
Kim said he trusted safety investigations by officials from the IAEA, Japan and South Korea, but said his business was damaged mainly because some opposition politicians and some media “made a lot of noise”.
Japan has also faced strong protests from local fishing organizations, which fear their fish will be wiped out. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged his government’s full support to fishing communities amid decades of sewage spills. The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives opposes the exemption, but its leaders say some members believe the plan is safe.
Hong Seong-bin, a resident of Seoul, said the political controversy surrounding the release has left many people with a lack of accurate information about whether the water is truly safe or not.
In Hong Kong, dozens of residents took part in a demonstration in the central business district to protest Japan’s decision.
After reaching the building that houses the Japanese consulate, the protesters tore down a large banner with the Japanese flag and the words “No trace of humanity”. The enemy of the whole world. Some held signs calling for Kishida’s resignation.
The layoff plans are a blow to Japanese restaurants already reeling from other problems, said Martin Chan, director of the Hong Kong Restaurant and Allied Trade Federation. If Hong Kong follows China’s lead and bans all seafood from Japan, it will be forced to close its Japanese restaurant, he said.
At lunchtime, some locals ran to Japanese restaurants and supermarkets to get their last bit of “safe” sushi.
Vivian Lee, a housewife, said that after having a sushi lunch, she would stop eating seafood from Japan. Lee said that he likes to eat Japanese food, but he had to make such a decision due to his health.
“I want to be an example to my children, so that when they grow up, they will stop eating these products,” he said.
But Janet Yip, a young professional, said she would not reduce her consumption of Japanese food, as the rollout plans are in line with international standards.
Reactions to release plan muted in Taiwan. At the government level, Taipei aligns with Tokyo on a number of issues and has not openly opposed the release plan, which Taiwanese media have suggested is in line with international standards.
Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Board, a government agency, has previously expressed concern about the waste. On Tuesday, it said it would closely monitor radiation levels in waters off Taiwan.
The Philippines, which also receives coast guard ships and other assistance from Japan, stressed that it will take a scientific approach to the issue and acknowledge the expertise of the IAEA.
“As a coastal and archipelagic nation, the Philippines places a high priority on protecting and preserving the marine environment,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Associated Press reporters Jin-man Lee in Seoul, Simina Mistreanu in Taipei, Taiwan, Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines and Canice Leung in Hong Kong contributed to this report.
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