Radiation fears push pancakes off the Korean holiday menu

Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:01am EDT
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - Lee Gui-ja, a South Korean housewife, will not be preparing traditional pollack pancakes for Thanksgiving celebrations this week due to worries the fish may be contaminated by radiation from Japan's leaking Fukushima nuclear reactor.

Japan has sought to reassure the international community that the facility is under control but South Korea has banned fishery imports from the affected region.

Even though the vast majority of frozen pollack comes to South Korea from Russian waters, sales of fish have plunged before South Koreans mark the main annual holiday this week.

Japanese officials have been lobbying - without success - to have the ban lifted.

"I watched the news and will not put frozen pollack pancakes on the table this year, although they have always been there," Lee said at a fish market in central Seoul. "Maybe I will prepare mung bean or beef pancakes instead."

Pancakes are one of the dishes traditionally placed on the table to honor ancestors and then shared by the family once the ritual is complete.

"Sales are more than 60 percent down and stocks are all piled up," said Park Sun-young, who sells frozen pollack. "We keep telling people that these are not Japanese fish but people don't believe it."

Kim Heon-tae, an official at the Korea Overseas Fisheries Association, told Reuters that 98 percent of imported frozen pollack comes from Russian waters.   Continued...

A fish dealer waits for customers at a fishery market in central Seoul September 13, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won