How not to radiate fear

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How not to radiate fear

Radioactive material that leaked after explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant makes the whole world nervous about its possible harmful effects. The radioactivity is now heading back to Asia after hitting the United States and Europe via westerly winds. Radiation was detected on the West Coast of the United States on March 17, in Iceland five days later, and then in France. Korea can’t avoid being reached. After 0.001 becquerels of xenon, a radioactive material, was found in Gangwon last Wednesday, radioactivity reached its highest level four days later.

Both the government and radiation experts take the position that Koreans don’t have to worry about the exposure to the radiation. But anxieties continue to deepen as the situation at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant deteriorates. The Japanese government has acknowledged a possibility of a nuclear meltdown after a superhigh concentration of radioactivity was detected in water near a nuclear-powered turbine. As a result, the emergency squad’s cleanup efforts have been delayed, causing the normally placid Japanese to be shaken by the scary possibility of serious radioactive contamination.

The nuclear crisis in Japan is likely to become a lengthy battle. When the recovery teams drain out the water that came from the basement of the reactor, more commotion will sweep Japan. Our government cannot just repeat comforting words - such as “Korea is safe” - any longer. It must first make public all the details of the expected impact on our country as transparently as possible, and that must include concrete information on what kind of radioactive substances are coming, how much of it can reach here and via what routes.

Radioactive contamination can lead to harmful effects on the human body over time. And it is common sense that infants and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to radiation exposure. Therefore, the Lee Myung-bak administration should deal with the potential diffusion of radioactivity by launching a full-fledged battle to curb its spread. Even at the slightest sign of contamination, the government must immediately issue a warning. When mad cow disease ravaged the country, we learned that panic can be a far worse phenomenon than the disease itself.

The Japanese government’s opaqueness over what’s really happening has aggravated fear in Japan. Needless to say, only when a government communicates honestly with its people can it prevail over panic.

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