Rumors fly on Internet over fears of radiation
Korean government officials expressed concern yesterday that some Korean Internet users are needlessly stirring up fears related to the Japan disaster, as mass text messages and Internet posts plaguing the Web have led to a misunderstanding of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan.
Koreans have been sending messages to friends and family warning them to stay indoors and keep their windows closed since the Japanese government confirmed radiation leaks from tsunami-damaged reactors in Fukushima.
“I sent text messages to my friends because I heard from my boss that wind blowing from Fukushima turned northward heading to the Korean Peninsula,” said a 27-year-old company worker surnamed Lim. “We’re told to avoid getting wet by rain because it could contain radioactive material. Whether the information’s true or not, I immediately sent out messages because we would be in big trouble if that’s true.”
The Korea Meteorological Administration said there is only a slight chance of radiation spreading to Korea by air, because the westerlies, which dominate in northeastern Japan, are blowing most radiation out to the Pacific Ocean, not toward the Korean Peninsula.
Despite the government’s requests for the false rumors to stop, they continue to spread among popular Internet portals.
One Internet user posted a message on Agora on Wednesday with a warning that “the rain expected to fall on the weekend is likely to contain radioactive fallout.”
The user with the ID “Hwanggeum deulnyeok,” tagged a map of Friday morning’s weather forecast by Yahoo Japan and criticized the government, saying it is hiding the truth.
“Because wind blows from high pressure to low pressure, I’m afraid that radioactive material will reach Korea by wind,” the user wrote.
“The government should plan a week ahead and it must announce instructions on how to handle the situation,” the user wrote. “The trust of the government will collapse if it belatedly tells the public to avoid rain.”
The message was read by 40,560 viewers as of 4:40 p.m. yesterday and quickly spread to Twitter and Facebook.
To quell growing fears of a radiation crisis developing in Korea, Kim Seung-bae, spokesman of the Korea Meteorological Administration, wrote a message refuting the argument Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s true that wind blows from high pressure to low pressure,” Kim wrote. “But even if Japan is now in high pressure, the wind blows east to the Pacific Ocean, not to the Korean Peninsula, due to the rotation of the earth.
“It’s impossible that Japan’s radioactive will reach Korea with surface wind,” Kim said. “To make radioactive material reach the Korean Peninsula, the material would have to be carried by upper-level winds. But upper-level winds are westerlies, which always blow westward from the Korean Peninsula to Japan.”
Even President Lee Myung-bak expressed concern over the rumors.
“Some people are concerned that radioactive material will reach the peninsula, but there’s nothing to worry about,” President Lee was quoted as saying by Grand National Party spokesman Ahn Hyoung-hwan. “Such groundless rumors must be stopped.”
Meanwhile, the Kospi plunged more than 80 points to hit 1,800 on Tuesday afternoon as a groundless rumor regarding radioactive leakage from Japan to Korea spread around 11 a.m.
The Korea Exchange and the National Police Agency have decided to conduct a joint investigation into the spread of rumors, which caused the stock market to plunge on Tuesday.
One rumor online: “An explosion at a nuclear reactor in Fukushima. A radioactive wind could arrive in Korea as early as 4 p.m. today.”
By Kim Mi-ju, Jung Jae-yoon [email@example.com]
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경찰, SNS로 소문 퍼뜨려 … 주가 폭락 시킨 뒤 차익 챙긴 의혹
지난 15일 주가지수 폭락을 촉발한 ‘일본 방사능 한국 상륙’ 루머와 관련해 경찰이 16일 수사에 착수했다. 루머를 흘려 주가를 폭락시킨 뒤 이를 이용해 차익을 챙긴 세력이 있다는 것이다.
금융감독원과 경찰청 관계자들에 따르면 방사능 관련 업체의 주식을 보유했거나 주가가 떨어지면 이익이 나는 풋옵션 상품을 매수한 투기 세력이 의도적으로 소문을 퍼뜨렸다는 의혹이 있어 한국거래소에도 매매감리를 요청했다는 것이다. 금감원은 이날 ‘루머 유포자가 적발되면 인적 사항 등을 제공해 달라’는 내용의 협조 공문을 경찰에 보내왔다.
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경찰은 앞으로 주요 SNS(소셜네트워크서비스)에 대해 24시간 모니터링 체제를 유지하는 등 동일본 대지진과 관련한 허위사실 유포 행위를 지속적으로 단속할 예정이다.