South Korea Announces $104 Million Boost for Seafood Industry Amid Concerns Over Fukushima Water Release

by Ella

South Korea has pledged to inject 144 billion won (approximately $104 million) into its seafood industry as part of efforts to revitalize consumption following Japan’s discharge of contaminated water, including radioactive materials, from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This move comes in response to mounting concerns and a drop in seafood consumption after Japan’s recent actions.

Despite South Korea’s seafood market typically entering a bustling season towards the end of summer, featuring seasonal delicacies like shrimps and spotted sardines, reports indicate that popular seafood markets in Seoul and across the country experienced a significant decline in customers during the last week of August. This downturn followed Japan’s release of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean on August 24. The discharged water had been used to cool down reactors following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.


During an emergency meeting to address the country’s economic challenges, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol announced the allocation of 144 billion won to stimulate seafood consumption. The government plans to offer subsidies for various types of fish and distribute discount vouchers through online shopping platforms. Discount rates will be raised from 20 percent to 30 percent.


The government also intends to allocate up to two billion won per week until the last week of September to issue smartphone shopping discount vouchers specifically for purchasing seafood products. These vouchers will be valid until October 13.


However, some industry experts remain skeptical about the effectiveness of these measures, as recent surveys indicate that approximately 70 percent of South Koreans harbor concerns about the safety of consuming seafood when Japan discharges contaminated water into the sea. Despite public reservations regarding Japan’s decision, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration has defended its neighbor’s actions. South Korea even produced video advertisements aimed at persuading the population that Tokyo’s release of contaminated water is scientifically validated. During the meeting, President Yoon asserted that concerns over seafood safety were rooted in “unfounded rumors and propaganda materials.”


Data from South Korea’s state statistical information service, released on August 27, revealed a 9.8 percent year-on-year decline in the monthly average spending on fresh seafood products in the second quarter of 2023. The decline in consumption of uncooked or unprocessed seafood products commenced in the first quarter of 2022 when the Japanese government announced its intention to release cooling water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster site into the sea. Subsequently, consumption figures turned negative in the first quarter of 2022 (-4.2 percent), followed by further declines in the second quarter of 2022 (-6.5 percent), third quarter of 2022 (-10.2 percent), fourth quarter of 2022 (-7.9 percent), first quarter of 2023 (-6.6 percent), and second quarter of 2023 (-9.8 percent).

The term “contaminated water,” referred to as “treated water” by Japan, comprises subterranean water that came into contact with the Fukushima reactor, which had melted down and remains unrecovered. This water is collected and treated using the advanced liquid-processing system (ALPS) before being stored in over 1,000 stainless steel canisters on the defunct nuclear power plant site.

The water utilized as a coolant for the reactor contains radioactive elements, including cesium-137, strontium-90, tritium (hydrogen-3), and iodine-131. The ALPS process successfully removes 62 of the 64 radioactive elements, reducing the concentration level of radionuclides below Japan’s regulatory limits established in 2022. However, it does not eliminate carbon-14 and tritium. Japan commenced discharging the treated water into the Pacific Ocean on August 24, 2023.



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