Japan’s PR efforts after wastewater dumping ‘cannot repair image or pacify neighbors’
Published: Apr 17, 2021 12:34 AM Updated: Apr 17, 2021 12:06 PM
People rally to protest against the Japanese government's decision to discharge contaminated radioactive wastewater in Fukushima Prefecture into the sea, in Tokyo, capital of Japan, April 13, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

People rally to protest against the Japanese government's decision to dump contaminated radioactive wastewater in Fukushima Prefecture into the sea, in Tokyo, capital of Japan, April 13, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

Amid a public outcry in Japan's neighboring countries against its decision to dump Fukushima nuclear wastewater into the ocean, the Japanese government vowed at a Friday meeting to take "all-out measures" to dispel "harmful rumors," but the publicity efforts may not succeed and Japan's moral bankruptcy could have a far-reaching impact on its exports and tourism, observers said.

At the Japanese government meeting, concerns from neighboring countries like China and South Korea were described as unfounded rumors causing reputational damage to the area's marine products, according to a Kyodo News report on Friday. 

"We will proactively take swift measures to deepen understanding among people in Japan and overseas," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at the meeting, adding that the government will "secure necessary budgets." Ministers also discussed policies to compensate businesses impacted by the dump, NHK reported. 

Japanese governments have upheld the theory that treated nuclear contaminated water is safe and meets WHO standards. But this failed to convince Chinese or South Koreans who believe Japan has lost its credibility. 

At a Thursday press conference, Kato declined to comment on whether the "treated water" from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant would be drinkable, as was suggested by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso.

"Maybe Kato was worried the reporter would ask him to drink a glass [of nuclear wastewater]," a Chinese net user commented on Sina Weibo. 

The Japanese Embassy to China's Weibo account is still being updated, and is posting lots of cherry blossom photos. But Chinese netizens have no mood for that when Japan is planning to "use the ocean as its sewer," as one Weibo user said. 

"Will the flowers grow more vigorously after being irrigated by Fukushima water?" said another.  

The Global Times also found that accounts that usually share Japanese landscapes, food and culture, or promote Japanese cosmetics have been silent in the past few days. 

Some Chinese accounts posting contents in favor of the Japanese government's decision were seen as "whitewashing" and faced a huge backlash domestically. 

Though there has not been a systematic boycott of Japanese brands, a "low-credibility" image may have a negative impact on sales of Japanese products and tourism in the long run, observers predicted. Seafood and agricultural products will be the first to suffer but other products like cosmetics and snacks are also likely to be influenced.

Jing Xiaoyi, a loyal user of Japanese beauty brand Shiseido, told the Global Times that she used to trust Japanese products than those from subcontracted manufacturers. "But now I have started to suspect what is in those pricy bottles," Jing said.  

Chinese observers also noted that younger generations who grew up with Japanese animation and have a generally good impression of the country, may now understand Japan's aggressive nature that has long been covered up by polite etiquette. 

A popular Japanese animation film, Detective Conan, hit Chinese mainland theaters on Friday. Tickets sold well, but viewers' feelings were more complex than when they bought the tickets a few days ago. 

 "I like Japanese cuisine, some TV dramas, animation and literature. I appreciate the uniqueness of Japanese cultural exports, but one has to recognize its narrow mind and near sight in national spirit," a Weibo user said. 

Reaction from South Korean society has been similar, if not more intense. One South Korean netizen said the move to dump the wastewater is "insane and forces the entire world to absorb radiation."

"If the motion proceeds, South Korea should cut ties with Japan," said another. 

Alongside the public outcry, retailers in South Korea have also taken action. Local supermarket chains E-mart, Lotte Mart and Homeplus have confirmed that they will continue boycotting Japanese seafood products, the Korea Times reported.

Earlier, South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announced that it would increase seafood management measures for Japanese products.