S.Korea president eats seafood lunch amid concern over Japan water release

By Reuters   August 28, 2023 | 03:22 pm PT
S.Korea president eats seafood lunch amid concern over Japan water release
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks next to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden as they hold a joint press conference during the trilateral summit at Camp David near Thurmont, Maryland, U.S., Aug. 18, 2023. Photo by Reuters
South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol had a seafood lunch on Monday, his office said, to allay public concern over the safety of local fish products after Japan began discharging treated radioactive water from its Fukushima nuclear plant.

Japan started releasing water from the wrecked plant into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, sparking protests in Japan and neighbouring countries. Chinese consumers have been particularly upset, and Beijing has announced a blanket ban on all aquatic products from Japan.

In South Korea, the government has said it has found no scientific or technical problems with the release, but public concern remains high over seafood and ocean contamination.

During his weekly meeting with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, Yoon had a seafood lunch. The presidential office cafeteria also had raw fish on the lunch menu for its staff, it said.

"The presidential office decided to provide Korean seafood products on the lunch menu at our cafeteria every day for a week starting Monday, hoping our people consume our safe seafood products without concerns," it said in a statement.

Tests of seawater near the Fukushima plant have not detected any radioactivity, Japan's environment ministry said on Sunday, days after the discharge began.

Fishery industries, however, still fear a sharp decline in seafood consumption. In a July public survey by pollster Media Research, 62% of South Koreans said they would cut back or stop consuming seafood once the discharge goes ahead, despite government assurances that it would closely monitor the release.

Kim Hi-soo, 55, a vendor at Noryangjin, the largest fish market in Seoul, said on Monday: "One of our regulars came days ago and said he came to consume as much as he can before (the discharged water) spreads ... It's heartbreaking ... when I think about the slump that we'd have to face in months."

Prime Minister Han said on Thursday that bans on imports of Fukushima fishery and food products would stay in place until public concerns eased.

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