South Korean President seeks to ease radiation fears

Lee Myung-Bak also tried to ease concerns over S Korea`s nuclear reactors.

Updated: Mar 21, 2011, 14:22 PM IST

Seoul: South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak on Monday reiterated the country was safe from radiation leaking from Japan`s stricken nuclear plant, amid rising public fear over the neighbouring island`s crisis.

"I know that many people are now worried about whether we might be affected by the problems... First and foremost, I can assure that you do not have to worry," he said in a radio speech.

Citing experts, Lee said radiation from the plant in Japan`s northeast has not so far had any impact on South Korea, and that winds were highly unlikely to sweep radioactive materials that far in any dangerous concentration.

"Please do not be swayed by unfounded rumours or unscientific speculations about nuclear fallout," said Lee.

Lee also tried to ease concerns over the country`s own nuclear reactors, saying its 21 power plants could withstand "the biggest possible earthquake that could occur in the nation".

Fears over radiation have spread online, prompting Seoul, the closest foreign capital to the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima, to crack down on scaremongering and warn against panic buying.

The nation`s pharmacists issued an appeal on Thursday for consumers not to panic-purchase iodine tablets, which can reduce the risk of cancer from radiation exposure, after callers flooded stores with requests for the pills.

On the same day, police arrested a 28-year-old man in Seoul for spreading rumours through online messaging and text messages that radioactive materials would soon reach the peninsula.

Seoul authorities have stressed that year-round westerly winds would blow any radiation from Japan out into the Pacific, while levels of radioactivity in South Korea have remained normal through the nuclear crisis.

Radiation detectors have been installed at major port terminals and airports where visitors arrive from Japan.

Inspectors have since detected higher than usual levels of radiation on five travellers, but levels returned to normal once they cleaned their coats and shoes.

Bureau Report