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South Korea vouches for safety of plans to release Fukushima wastewater but citizens’ fears persist

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – South Korea’s government yesterday formally endorsed the safety of Japanese plans to release treated wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean as it tried to calm people’s fears of food contamination.

The assessment was based on a 22-month review by government-funded scientists and aligns with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s views. The agency greenlit the Japanese discharge plans this week, saying the treated wastewater would meet international safety standards and pose negligible environmental and health impacts.

South Korea’s review focused on any impact the wastewater release might have on South Korea, and “the result showed that its effect on our waters would be insignificant”, the minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination Bang Moon-kyu said at a news conference.

Even before yesterday’s announcement, South Korean officials were actively working to reduce public unease about the wastewater release, holding daily briefings to address what they described as “excessive fears” and expanding radiation tests on fish imported from Japan or caught in nearby seas.

Conservative lawmakers from President Yoon Suk-yeol’s governing party have even toured a seafood market to drink sea water taken from fish tanks in a bizarre gesture to certify food safety, although no wastewater has been released from Fukushima yet.

Public concerns persist as retailers report an increase in sea salt sales, apparently driven by consumers looking to stock up ahead of the release.

Students wearing masks of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi during a rally. PHOTO: AP