Some S. Korean Schools Close Amid Radioactive Rain Scare
    2011-04-07 17:05:55     Xinhua       Web Editor: Guo
The radioactive rain scare sweeping South Korea has caused the closing of some elementary schools on Thursday following a storm of requests from parents anxious about their children's health.

Fears have grown sharply as rumors of radioactive rain circulated the Internet after weather agencies in Norway and Germany, respectively, warned earlier this week that radioactive particles from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan could reach the Korean peninsula in a few days.

School boards across the country advised principals to use their discretion in suspending outdoor activities or even closing school to allay mounting uneasiness among parents.

The Baeyang Elementary School in Gyeonggi province outlying the capital Seoul was one of a number of schools that chose to shut for the day.

The principal told Xinhua that he received a few calls from parents asking about the closing of school and decided to shut school for the day to ease their worries.

The country's nuclear safety agency said minuscule traces of iodine and cesium were reported in the rain falling on the island of Jeju off the country's south coast but the amount was not enough to cause public health concern.

Meanwhile, the Korea Meteorological Administration played down the prospect of direct radiation fallout from the crippled nuclear plant in Japan.

"The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety announced that a small level of radioactive particles were detected in rainwater on Jeju Island, but we believe that they are not from Fukushima," the weather agency's spokesman Kim Seung-bae said in a briefing.

He said that air current analysis shows that the winds blowing from Japan will circle clockwise and fade out towards the Pacific Ocean by Friday, leaving the Korean peninsula unaffected.

However, public concerns over radioactive rain remained high. "I did not want to go out today because I did not trust what the national weather agency said, but since I had to leave home, I prepared myself as much as possible such as wearing a waterproof jacket," said Bae Sung-cheol, 27.

There were some who dismissed public fears. "I heard the amount of radioactive particles is small, and some say it is less than the amount of radiation exposed to during an X-ray. So I don't really worry," said Sung Si-wook, 20.

South Korea also held the first meeting of a ministerial taskforce formed to ensure public health and food safety in the face of possible radiation exposure from the nuclear disaster.

Special task force meetings will be held twice a week presided over by the Prime Minister's Office and attended by ministers of the relevant bodies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The task force will mainly discuss measures to counter nuclear leaks and ways to enhance the safety of the country's nuclear plants, as well as food imported from Japan.
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