Aversion to Fukushima food remains high in South Korea

Nearly 80 percent of South Koreans want to avoid food products from Fukushima Prefecture, regardless of the plan to discharge water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to a survey.

The Reconstruction Agency conducted the online survey in January and February in 10 countries and regions to gauge international sentiments towards Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to release treated radioactive water into the sea as soon as Spring 2023. A total of 2,700 people responded.

The results of the survey, released on April 26, will be used to take countermeasures against negative publicity for the water disposal plan that could damage the image of the prefecture’s products, the agency said.

The government decided in April 2021 to reject the water to reduce the more than one million tonnes of treated water stored at the plant.

Although the treatment process cannot remove the tritium, the water will be diluted with seawater to bring its radiation level well below safety standards, TEPCO said.

According to the survey, 13% of respondents in Japan “do not want to buy” food products derived from Fukushima at the moment. The ratio increased slightly to 14% when the water discharge body was included in the scenario.

Percentage increases were 5 to 8 points in five countries and regions, including Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States.

In South Korea, about 77% said they would not buy products made in Fukushima, whether or not the water is discharged into the sea.

The survey asked respondents if they were aware that Japan’s food safety levels are controlled to some of the strictest standards in the world.

Around 50% each in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan were aware, while the rate exceeded 30% in Europe and the United States.

However, only 15% of South Koreans said they were aware of Japan’s security levels. And 56% said they knew the security levels but doubted the Japanese government’s claims.

Kosaburo Nishime, the reconstruction minister, on April 26 asked government authorities to show the international community data from the International Atomic Energy Agency and other third parties regarding the water release plan.

The central government plans to step up its radiological monitoring of the waters around the Fukushima plant after the water was released.

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