S. Korean minister calls Japan 'immoral' for covering up radiation leak

SEJONG, Sept. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's fisheries minister strongly blasted Japan Monday for apparently trying to downplay, if not cover up, radiation leaks at its nuclear power plant.

Yoon Jin-sook, South Korea's minister of oceans and fisheries, stopped short of calling Japan a liar, saying the country is without conscience or morality.

The South Korean minister had said Japanese fishery products tested safe. She still maintained the Japanese products were safe at least scientifically, but that the government had no choice but to block Japanese products.

"We did not know that Japan would let the contaminated water leak. We thought this cannot be allowed while our people's fears were growing," Yoon said while meeting with reporters here.

"Japan must have a responsibility to inform (us and others). (Japan) was not providing any information while letting all the contaminated water flow freely. It is just absurd," she added.

South Korea placed an import ban earlier this month on all fishery products from eight Japanese prefectures near the site of a nuclear accident in Fukushima, where a powerful earthquake led to the meltdown of a nuclear reactor in March 2011 and subsequent radiation leaks.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly claimed that radiation contaminated water at the Fukushima plant was completely contained.

Japan's nuclear power plant operator, however, has recently admitted that hundreds of tons of radioactive water were being funneled into the ocean every day.

"We wondered if we had to protect such immoral people under diplomatic protocols, and so we did it (placed an import ban) as soon as we could," Yoon said.

The minister also hinted at the possibility of filing an official complaint with Tokyo, apparently for the latter's attempt to downplay or cover up radiation leaks, saying Seoul will begin preparations for such a move if necessary.

When asked of the possibility of Japan filing a suit with the World Trade Organization against South Korea's import ban, Yoon said no such movement has been detected and that Tokyo will not likely do so.

Japan will not likely file a suit, she said, "because Japan is trying to cover up the whole thing."

"Japan appears to be glossing over its people, too," she added.

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