SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean vendors at a fish market in the capital Seoul and opposition party members called on the government to take actions to have Japan drop plans to release contaminated water from its wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.
It comes after Japan on Tuesday said it will release more than 1 million tonnes of treated water from the Fukushima site in stages starting in about two years.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered officials on Wednesday to explore petitioning an international court to stop the release, while China called the decision “extremely irresponsible”.
Vendors at Seoul’s largest fish market, Noryangjin market, said it cannot be a good news for those in the seafood business.
“I’m concerned as the water flows out to the whole world. We can’t be relieved,” said Kim Hyo-bin, 72, a fish shop owner. “Our market has been conducting radiation checks, so it’s a little relief, but I’m still worried.”
South Korea banned seafood imports from eight Japanese prefectures near Fukushima in 2013 and last year expanded radiation checks from once to four times per year.
“I’m worried. It is about what we eat … The government should stop them (Japan) from contaminating the sea,” Kim Ki-suk, 80, a customer, said. “If the ocean gets polluted, I will be too scared to eat fish.”
A series of protests against the move continued by members of the opposition Progressive Party in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul.
“We are here in front of the Japanese embassy to convey the voices of the angry people in regards to Japan’s decision,” Kim Jae-yeon, a standing representative of Progressive Party, said.
“They are saying we have two years, but we urge the South Korean government to quickly work with neighbouring countries who also worry about the release and take legal, economic and diplomatic actions.”
Japan says it plans to filter and dilute the contaminated water to remove isotopes, leaving only tritium, a radioactive isotope considered to be relatively harmless because it does not emit enough energy to penetrate human skin.
It says similarly filtered water is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world. But the planned release has raised alarm among some experts, environmental activists, officials in neighbouring countries, and workers in the fishing industry who fear both safety risks as well as reputational damage that could devastate business.
(Reporting by Dogyun Kim, Daewoung Kim; Writing by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)