SEOUL, May 25 (Korea Bizwire) — After an on-site inspection of Fukushima’s contaminated water conducted by a team that excluded civilian experts, concerns have arisen regarding Japan’s push to resume seafood imports from Fukushima.
The verification of the contaminated water is nearly impossible, making it highly likely that Japan’s next move will involve lifting the ban on seafood imports from Fukushima based on its unilateral logic if the discharge takes place as planned.
Speculation also suggests that the Japanese government may resort to filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to exert pressure on South Korea to import Fukushima seafood.
Should the Japanese government proceed with discharging radioactively contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as early as this summer, the domestic food industry will face significant repercussions.
According to the Japanese government’s plan, the contaminated water will be treated, diluted with seawater, and released through an undersea tunnel into the sea one kilometer off the coast of Fukushima.
Korean consumers are concerned about the potential impact of the contaminated water on domestic seafood if it is carried by ocean currents and reaches Korean waters, including the East Sea.
Currently, the South Korean government is dispatching a team of experts to the site to verify the safety of the contaminated water.
However, regardless of the verification’s outcome, public resistance and opposition to Fukushima’s contaminated water are expected to be high.
Retailers are anxious that if the Japanese government proceeds with the discharge, sales of domestic seafood products could experience a significant decline.
South Korea’s industrial sector is currently facing a major crisis.
The Korean semiconductor industry is grappling with the consequences of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and Hyundai Motor Co. remains the only automaker unable to withdraw from Russia due to concerns about South Korean arms support in the Ukraine conflict.
Now, Japan’s unilateral actions are poised to deal a severe blow to South Korea’s agricultural and fisheries industries.
The situation is being closely monitored by supermarkets and food manufacturers involved in seafood.
While the discharge of contaminated water from Fukushima has not yet commenced, some have already taken precautions, such as intensifying radiation testing.
A representative from a major supermarket chain stated, “Sales of seafood products have not seen significant changes since there has been no release of the Fukushima contaminated water yet. However, we are closely monitoring the situation as we believe that a release could impact sales.”
Discount retailer E-Mart Inc. has been conducting its own radiation tests on seafood since the beginning of the year as a precautionary measure.
Food manufacturers, including those handling salt, seaweed, fish cakes, and tuna, are also anxious about the situation.
Dongwon Group has taken significant steps to ensure the safety of its products, doubling inspection items and increasing inspection frequency.
The company has also implemented a two-track system with internal and external agencies to strengthen inspection standards.
Dongwon clarified that its tuna is not affected by the contaminated water from Fukushima, but the company has nonetheless intensified verification processes due to consumer concerns.
Daesang Corp. is making preparations for a potential impact on domestic seafood and is exploring alternatives such as using rock salt or importing seafood from Europe if domestic salt production is affected.
Self-employed individuals who operate raw fish or seafood restaurants are also deeply worried.
Posts on the popular online community “I’m the boss cause I’m feeling hurt” reveal increasing concerns about the discharge of contaminated water from Fukushima.
Regardless of whether the contaminated water poses a threat or not, self-employed individuals unanimously believe that restaurants serving seafood, like sashimi shops, will suffer the most in the initial stages of the discharge.
Meanwhile, the visit of the inspection team to the Fukushima has prompted calls in Japan’s political circles to halt seafood imports from South Korea’s side.
Japan’s Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Minister, Tetsuro Nomura, mentioned during a press conference after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, “South Korea has suspended imports of nearly all seafood from eight prefectures, including Fukushima and Miyagi. The inspection primarily focuses on the investigation of treated water, but I would like to request the lifting of import restrictions alongside it.”
Yasutoshi Nishimura, the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry responsible for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, commented, “We are presenting scientific evidence and ensuring transparency while explaining the situation to the international community. We will do the same for Korean experts, hoping to enhance their understanding of the safety of the treated water.”
The Japanese government’s demands are expected to escalate following the inspection team’s visit.
Ashley Song (email@example.com)