[Letters] Effective communication on algal blooms necessaryWhen Chinese infants who were fed formulas with melamine died in 2008, sales of the dairy products and instant coffee that contain the substance drastically dropped in Korea.
The Korea Food and Drug Administration said that the coffee from vending machines contains melamine, but an adult who weighs 60 kilograms (132 pounds) is at risk only if he drinks 4,000 cups a day. The panic over melamine subsided as the KFDA provided realistic measurements of the amount of melamine that can be harmful instead of providing information on melamine itself.
The point is the visualization of the quality. Lately, many Koreans are concerned of the algal blooms in rivers. The citizens have every reason to be worried.
However, if they don’t have a specific and easy-to-understand measure, such as “4,000 cups of coffee from a vending machine every day,” their anxiety is vague. While the government may think that “5,000 units per 1 milliliter” or “50 ppm” is accurate information, the average citizen has no idea what they mean and how the green tide may affect their lives.
They need a more realistic expression such as, “You may develop a liver problem if you drink 100 liters of water with microcystin content similar to that found in the water in Paldang Lake.” And the government should control and communicate information regarding tap water more thoroughly.
Nowadays, the central and local governments provide customized information on tap water via smartphone applications. When such efforts are maintained, citizens can drink tap water without concern. Tap water in Korea is potable and well maintained compared to other developed countries. But the problem is that the citizens are not aware of the quality of the water. Through proper communication, the government must to come up with effective ways to relieve unnecessary anxiety among the citizens.
* Professor at the Dankook Center for Dispute Resolution
by Jeon Hyeong-jun