On March 11th, 2011, all the people who have since died and survived were helpless in front of a natural disaster, the earthquake in the northeastern part of Japan. Even now, after a year, there still remain broken boats on the buildings and tons of wrecked cars all around. The place where people lived has disappeared, and only debris is scattered on the ground. The Japanese government expects it will take three years to get rid of all waste. However, many people wonder if Japan can restore the places and the residents’ lives after three years. The pain which they will have to go through from here on is as big as the pain which a great number of the Japanese suffered just after the disaster.
◆ Suffering victims
The number of deaths, which includes missing persons, from this earthquake is about 20 thousand. Then, how many people lost their family members? And how severe was the pain the survivors suffered? It’s no wonder that most of the bereaved families cannot live a normal life.Some people became alcoholics as they drank too much alcohol to forget their sorrows, and other people tried to kill themselves. The Japanese government dispatched social workers to these people who suffered from mental pain. Social workers play roles of companions to talk with them and also check their physical conditions. They are big supporters of these helpless sufferers who have lost family members.
The losses were not only people. Because of the disaster, a lot of industries collapsed and many people lost their jobs and homes accordingly. The Japanese government runs an employment service agency for the unemployed. As a result, the unemployment problem is improving. But most of them are temporary workers and day laborers. As such, many people live in a temporary dwelling which the government sets up. It’s very small and uncomfortable, but for the people who lost their jobs and homes in a moment, the temporary dwelling is the best way for now. They are also provided with necessary aid from the government. In spite of the aid, one sufferer said that her family often skips their meals to cut down expenses. Another sufferer said that he hoped to get better just after the time when he was damaged. But now, after a year, he feels anxiety about the unimproved dark situation.
◆ The persistent disaster: radiation leak.
A place that has a high level of radioactivity is called a hot-spot. One of the hot-spots in Fukushima was measured at 8~9μSv (microsieverts), which is a much higher level than the standard of airborne radioactivity at 0.05~0.3μSv. This measurement is about 26 to 180 times higher than the standard.
In particular, on rainy and snowy days, people should be careful because the radioactive matter in the air comes down. One resident in Fukushima said that he had become numb about the radioactivity. He has been used to it despite feeling uneasy at the same time. Like him, some residents stay in their hometowns in Fukushima. But other people have left their hometowns because of various reasons. As of now, the population of Fukushima has decreased about 2.5% over the past year. One professor expects the population of areas near the first nuclear power plant to become half.
There is a special case that leaves Fukushima. Residents in Fukushima visited Jangsu, in Jeonbuk province in Korea. They looked at the possibility of group immigration to Jangsu from Fukushima. One of the reasons they chose Jangsu to move to is that the industries and lifestyles of Jangsu are very similar to those of Fukushima. The first reason, though, is that they want to raise their kids in a safe environment.
In Japan, there is a ‘Fukushima bullying phenomenon’ by which people from Fukushima are shunned by all. A transfer student from Fukushima was bullied by other students who thought of being contaminated by radioactivity. People are even reluctant to marry persons from Fukushima. Even worse, married couples who have children divorce because of differences in thinking about refuge. A lot of social problems occur which people could not expect before.
◆ Is Korea safe?
It happened on February 9th, 2012. There was a station blackout event at Kori nuclear power plant. Because of the blackout, a cooling device stopped for a while. It might have lead to a very serious accident such as the Fukushima case. What’s worse, the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company (KHNP) concealed this accident for a month. This dangerous concealment can cause other serious problems. The radioactivity can influence fatal effects on the human body for a long time with minute amounts. Nobody knows what symptoms will arise to residents nearby.
Looking at radioactivity incidents all around the world in history, we can find one thing in common which governments in all countries have taken part in: secrecy. For example, the government of the Soviet Union hid the incident and only tried to set the public at ease rather than notifying them of the situation. If they had admitted the incident and handled the crisis, the damage could have been less. The Japanese government also seems to take on secrecy to some degree while the government tries to recover the damage and support victims. Japanese distrust has grown bigger due to the government’s ambiguous attitudes such as concealing real figures and changing the safety law.
Then, how about Korea? We should think carefully and see the right thing. There are disasters that we have never imagined before in all parts of the world. Korea is no exception. Only transparent measures can stop these nightmarish disasters. We have to remember people always come first before anything such as technology or capital. Keeping the idea that nothing is perfect in mind, we should prepare for the disasters.