Sout Korea bans more Japan fishery products from near Fukushima on eve of Olympic decision

Sout Korea bans more Japan fishery products from near Fukushima on eve of Olympic decision

SEOUL - Reuters
Sout Korea bans more Japan fishery products from near Fukushima on eve of Olympic decision

South Korea has said that it made the banning move because of insufficient information from Tokyo about what will happen in the future with contaminated water leaking from the a crippled nuclear plant. AP photo

South Korea banned all fishery imports from a swath of Japan around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant Sep. 6, dealing another blow to Tokyo’s credibility on the eve of the capital’s bid to host the Olympics.

Just hours after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe broke away early from a global summit in Russia to personally back Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Games, Seoul extended a ban on 50 imports from eight Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, due to concerns about radiation contamination.

“The measures are due to the sharply increased concern in the public about the flow of hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water into the ocean at the site of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan,” a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office told reporters.

Korea’s move, which takes effect on Sept. 9, adds to international pressure on Japan to fix the crisis in Fukushima.

China has banned the import of dairy, vegetable and seafood products from at least 5 Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, since March 2011.

Olympic hazards

Fukushima’s embattled operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co , has been forced to reverse denials and admit that two and a half years after the reactor was wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami, it is leaking hundreds of tons of radioactive water a day into the Pacific Ocean and radiation levels have spiked.

Japan has struggled to assure the International Olympic Committee, meeting in Argentina, and the public at large that it can manage the Fukushima crisis.

Tokyo’s bid for the Olympics is a high-stakes gamble for Abe and his “Abenomics” program. The right to host the games would likely boost Abe’s popularity and could potentially spur his signature pro-growth policies for the world’s third-biggest economy.

Abe’s government stepped in this week, pledging nearly half a billion dollars to help Tokyo Electric Power Co try to contain the contaminated water.

Tokyo’s Olympic bid chief on Sept. 4 played down fears over Fukushima, saying Tokyo’s radiation level is comparable to London, Paris and New York.

Tokyo pushed back against the ban on Sept. 9. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the water contamination is affecting only a very small area. Japan wants Korea to decide on Japanese imports based on scientific data.

Korea’s extended fishery-import ban will remain in place indefinitely, Vice Fisheries Minister Son Jae-hak told the news briefing, saying information received from Japan was not good enough to properly judge the situation.

Seoul said it would also now tighten its testing on fishery imports from other areas of Japan.
South Korea imported 5,000 tons of fishery products from the eight affected prefectures last year, out of a total of 40,000 tons of imports from Japan, Son said.

Tepco last month admitted that 300 tons of toxic water had escaped from one of the tanks assembled to store contaminated run-off, and has since found radiation hotspots in three other holdings areas.