Korea should strive to prove harmful effects
South Korea has decided to appeal the World Trade Organization's ruling on its seafood import restrictions imposed following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The decision came after a WTO dispute panel ruled the restrictions were justified right after the nuclear meltdown, but continuing them violated the WTO's sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement.
The ruling, however, does not mean the Seoul government should lift the limits immediately. As it decided to appeal, the country can keep them in place until the world body makes a final ruling which may come in the latter half of the year at the earliest.
Whatever the reason, the government should take the responsibility for losing out to Japan. It has taken only seven samples of affected Japanese seafood. It has failed to publish any reports about this matter in the past seven years. In addition, a committee of civilian radioactivity experts stopped its operations monitoring Japanese seafood. In a word, the authorities were ill-prepared for the dispute.
The seafood row began in May 2015 when the neighboring country filed a complaint against Korea over the restrictions. Korea imposed an import ban on 50 types of seafood caught in the waters near the disaster area. It also took further steps to limit fishery imports from seven other prefectures in 2013.
Those measures were to protect Korean consumers from the potential harmful effects of radioactive contamination. But the government has so far failed to prove such effects exist. Thus, it is no surprise Japan won the case.
Now, related government ministries and agencies should waste no efforts to collect scientific and objective data to prove the harmful effects. They also need to address Japan's refusal to cooperate in probing seawater contamination near the disaster-hit area.
South Korea also needs to ask for help with 24 countries, including the U.S., Russia and Argentina, which also took measures against Japanese seafood after the Fukushima catastrophe. It must keep in mind that food safety is crucial to ensuring the people's health.