South Korea bans imports of Japanese seafood products

South Korea is currently banning imports of seafood products from 8 provinces of Japan.

The Japanese government responded to the decision by demanding the lifting of the ban, arguing that “it isn’t based on any scientific evidence”. Therefore, to assess the validity of the import prohibition, South Korea sent an inquiry commission to Japan in December 2014.

The inquiry commission composed of nuclear physicists and consumer groups visited the Chiba wholesale market and the Fukushima seafood market, listened to the explanations of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries before going to the Japan Offspring Fund (JOF) to listen to the other side of the story. The day following their return to South Korea, Japanese newspapers reported that “South Korea does not lift the ban on seafood products”.

Afterwards, South Korea sent a new investigation team to Japan in January but it didn’t result in the lifting of the ban.

South Korea still at 370 Becquerel

After the Chernobyl disaster, both Japan and South Korea set the legal limit of radioactivity (Cesium 134 and 137) in 1kg of food at 370 Becquerel (Bq). However, Japan lowered this threshold in April 2014 to 100 Bq. As Japan declares not to be selling fishes exceeding this limit, it is indeed unjustified that South Korea, whose legal limit is of 370 Bq, refuses to buy Japanese products without any valid reason. It is therefore natural for the Japanese government to demand the lifting of the ban.

Nonetheless, as we, Japan Offspring Fund, found and demonstrated that even 1.1 Bq in 1kg of food could cause harm to the body, we are asking for a legal limit at 1 Bq. Thus, we decided to support the South Korean decision, in order to protect South Korean people and eventually, to be able to protect Japanese people.

On the same level with radioactive waste

The Japanese standard for defining radioactive waste is set at 100 Bq for both Cesium 134 and 137.

As the Japanese legal limit for radioactivity in food is set at 100 Bq for Cesium 134 and 137, Japanese people are barely spared from eating radioactive waste.

But South Korean people are fishing in the Pacific Ocean just near Fukushima, and their legal limit for radioactivity is set at 370 Bq. That is to say that they are eating fishes as dangerous as radioactive wastes.

The limit defined by the Codex Alimentarius is of 1000 Bq. They are indeed deeming acceptable foods 10 times more radioactive than nuclear wastes.

If the South Korean government asked the Codex Alimentarius to review its standards, their ban on Japanese seafood imports would then be justified and they would be able to protect the South Korean population. That is the idea we submitted to the inquiry commission, but for a country supportive of nuclear power generation like South Korea, is that even conceivable?

On May 21th 2015, the Japanese government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against South Korea, for its policy on seafood imports.

The JOF efforts bore fruits as the Korean government is not yielding before the pressure exerted by the Japanese government, which drove the latter to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

At the moment, Fukushima is working on how to solve to problem, but 300 tons of the water used to cover the melted reactor of the plant are still leaking in the sea every day.

As long as contaminated water is being leaked into sea, arguing about the safety of the Pacific Ocean fishes is out of the question.