Friday, April 08, 2011

Is It Safe to be in Korea? Japanese Radiation Terror Edition

Dear Korean,

We are planning to travel in June to Korea. I was wondering if the current reactor problems are causing issues in Korea.

KoreaMom to 3

The official story is that while there is more radiation in the air than usual, it is not at the level to cause any health effects. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology set up an automated monitor of radiation over Korea, which has been showing normal numbers.

But people are understandably freaking out a little, especially because it rained over Korea a few days ago. A number of schools closed, and a lot of outdoor sporting events, including pro baseball games, were cancelled. The traffic jam was worse than usual because many people drove their cars to work instead of taking the subway.

It is not as if the Korean is a nuclear scientist, so he cannot say if the radiation level in Korea is truly unsafe. The bungling response by the Japanese utility company that operates the nuclear power plant is none too comforting either. But the Korean is more inclined to trust the official reports that the radiation level is safe. He would just be prudent and avoid the rain, and maybe avoid seafood. By the next month, this whole thing will probably blow over.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. "By the next month, this whole thing will probably blow over."

    Interesting choice of words.

  2. Aren't they detecting radiation in the US too? Since the winds blow to the east, not west, fortunately Korea isn't in too much trouble. Now if there were a country directly east of Japan, I wouldn't want to be living there. Yes, we had radioactive rain two days ago, but I would imagine other places in the world are getting it too. Sure, it's not good for you, but neither is the yellow dust full of mercury and other nasty stuff floating over from china. As one person pointed out to me, it's probably still safer than getting an X-ray. So, please, don't let it stop you from coming to Korea.

  3. 조안나:

    The amount of radiation detected on the West Coast of the U.S. was very negligible; it was only detectable because different elements give off different "colors" of radiation, and some of those elements created in nuclear reactors aren't found in nature.

    Science speak: ... because the spectra of the isotopes created in a nuclear power plant is different from that of the background radiation.

  4. Isn't yellow dust from China radioactive too?

  5. There's a great radiation chart at xkcd:

  6. There is an informative BLOG run by graduates students at MIT regarding the nuclear accident in Japan. It explains what's been happening in layman's term without the media sensationalism.


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