TOPAround Asia: South Koreans eating less seafood due to radiation scares

Around Asia: South Koreans eating less seafood due to radiation scares

By Alec Jordan

More and more South Koreans have gone off seafood amid fears of contamination from the Fukushima nuclear plant in neighboring Japan.

Sales of marine products have plummeted in South Korea since the nuclear disaster at the stricken plant, hurting South Korean fish traders and Japan’s seafood industry.

Around 77.5% of South Koreans said they were eating less seafood than before due to safety fears, according to a survey conducted by the Korea Rural Economic Institute in October.

Consumer fears come despite Seoul blocking Japanese seafood imports from eight prefectures surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi plant following leaks of radioactive water that may have found its way to the Pacific Ocean.

South Korea consumed 6.1 million tons of marine products in 2012, with about 80% is caught locally, where there is no evidence of any impact from the nuclear disaster.

Of the 1.1 million tons of foreign shipments, 32,000 tons come from Japan and 20% of which came from prefectures now under the South Korean ban. Total Japanese imports plunged to 25,000 in the first half of 2013.

The South Korean government increased safety checks on imported fishery products. It also announces the results of the twice-a-week radiation tests on all domestically traded marine products and has found no radioactivity in domestic marine products.

“There have been no buyers yet,” said Choi Mi-ja, a fish trader at the Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market. “In 26 years in this business, I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Chae Ae-kyoung is another retailer despairing over the drop in consumption. Chae said sales in her sushi restaurant in Bundang, just south of Seoul, have fallen by half since the reports about the radiation leaks emerged.

“Business has never been as bad as now” in her eight years running the restaurant, said Chae.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Wilson Loo/Flickr