South Korea to tighten inspections on waste imports from Japan

The move appears to be part of countermeasures to Tokyo's recent tightening of export controls on South Korea.
The move appears to be part of countermeasures to Tokyo's recent tightening of export controls on South Korea.PHOTO: AP

SEOUL (KYODO) - South Korea said on Friday (Aug 16) that it would strengthen radiation checks on imports of three recycling waste products from Japan, amid an escalating economic and political row between the two countries.

The move, announced by the Environment Ministry, appears to be part of countermeasures to Tokyo's recent tightening of export controls on South Korea, and follows a similar measure last week targeting coal ash imports from Japan.

The ministry said that for waste plastics, tires and batteries imported from Japan and Russia, on-site inspections of importers' radiation inspection records will be conducted once a month, up from the current once a quarter.

According to Yonhap News Agency, radiation checks until now have been limited to imports from Japan and Russia that have a possibility of contamination.

In explaining the decision, a ministry spokesman told a briefing that the tightening of safety inspections is to "secure the health and safety of the people as well as preservation of the environment".

He added that the move is "not a countermeasure against a trade spat or tightening of exports regarding a specific country", without naming Japan.

In 2018, South Korea imported about 166,000 tonnes of plastic waste from countries including Japan, the United States, and the Philippines, with about 66,000 tonnes coming from its neighbour.

In the same year, 240,000 tonnes of waste tires were imported, with about 6,900 tonnes of that coming from Japan.

On July 4, Japan imposed restrictions requiring case-by-case licences to export key materials used to manufacture semiconductors and display panels to its neighbour.

South Korea views the tighter restrictions, which are threatening to choke off its dominant tech industry, as retaliation in a longstanding dispute over wartime labour.


In the case of Seoul's tightened radiation checks on coal ash imports announced Aug 8, since nearly all of the by-product from thermal power plants comes from Japan, that measure is more likely to be a countermeasure against Tokyo's stricter controls.

Relations between the neighbouring countries have fallen to new lows following South Korean court decisions ordering compensation for Koreans who claimed they were forced to work in Japanese factories during Japan's colonial rule of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry on Tuesday announced it would actively respond to plans by Japan to discharge water contaminated as a result of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.

In the wake of the meltdown, Seoul imposed a ban on some types of seafood products from eight prefectures, including Aomori, Fukushima, and Chiba.

It expanded the ban in September 2013 to include all seafood products from the eight prefectures, and added a requirement that Japanese companies attach safety certificates when any traces of radiation are found in seafood from other regions.