Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been problematic in recent years. Fights over WWII human rights abuses, trade disputes and now the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.
Japan had already taken South Korea to the WTO court over an ongoing ban on food imports from Fukushima prefecture. In April of 2019 South Korea won this dispute and kept the food import ban in place.
Earlier in August South Korea announced they would double the radiation testing of 17 food products from Japan. This is in addition to other strict testing rules already placed on Japanese food imports while many products remain banned altogether. Some lawmakers in South Korea want a complete ban on all processed food imports from Japan citing ongoing findings of contamination on import screenings.
South Korea then summoned a Japanese diplomat demanding an explanation of plans by TEPCO to release contaminated water from Fukushima Daiichi into the ocean.
South Korea has now taken on the problems of Fukushima related to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. South Korea is asking for independent radiation checks at Olympic venues. They are also considering a separate cafeteria for their athletes, citing concerns about contaminated food. Part of the Japanese government plan for the Olympics is to feature foods from Fukushima prefecture at the Olympic cafeterias.
A nuclear specialist from Greenpeace echoed these concerns. He cited the need for Olympic teams to conduct their own radiation checks of sports venues. This included a warning of the risk of radioactive microparticles as an inhalation hazard. A portion of the Olympic torch route is planned to go through areas that were previously under evacuation, near Fukushima Daiichi. This event was cited as one of particular risk to participants and spectators. Currently, the Japanese government has been the sole provider of data proving the “safety” of these venues. The government has adopted the Olympics as a major PR tool for pushing the claim of disaster recovery. This creates an obvious conflict of interest.
South Korea is now considering not sending their athletes to Japan to train ahead of the games. It was also announced that they would seek to independently verify any radioactive contamination levels at these training facilities.
While much of this is still in the talking stage, the diplomatic fight doesn’t seem to be going away.
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