Low expectations surround the visit of South Korean experts to the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, even after the lead scientist admitted it is likely the team could "make progress".
Doubts over the inspection trip center on the ability to gather satisfactory results, according to experts, while South Korean critics expressed wariness over the visit being used by the Japanese to shift negative sentiment, especially over fish caught in the area surrounding the plant.
The South Korean inspection team's visit to Fukushima will find it hard to generate good results, just like the previous visit conducted by Taiwan experts last year, Yang Ki-ho, professor of Japanese studies at Sungkonghoe University in Seoul, told China Daily.
"Unfortunately, the discharge of contaminated water may not be able to be stopped," said Yang, who told local media earlier in May that Tokyo may use the visit to justify the release of the contaminated water, saying that it did its best to alleviate the concerns of the adjacent nation.
On Wednesday, a team of 21 South Korean experts completed their two-day on-site inspection of the Fukushima nuclear power plant for the dilution and discharge of radioactive wastewater, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.
Led by South Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission Chairperson Yoo Guk-hee, the team's sixday visit was part of an agreement reached between South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during their summit in Seoul on May 7.
On May 23, South Korean experts examined the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, purification process at the plant and facilities related to the K4 tanks designed to store and conduct measurements of radioactive substances.
Noting that the team examined all the facilities they wanted to see, Yoo told reporters they will likely be able to "make progress" in terms of assessing the safety of the water.
The team was not able to independently collect water samples but was analyzing those collected earlier by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA. The IAEA is expected to issue a final report on Japan's water release plan in late June.
In 2011, a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's cooling systems. The plant currently stores over 1.3 million tons of water treated using ALPS. Japan plans to begin releasing that water as early as this summer, with the process set to last decades.
Critics in South Korea said the visit might be used to shift negative sentiment on the possible contamination of seafood products from Fukushima.
Though South Korea said it will not consider lifting its import ban on seafood from Fukushima even if the water discharge plan is evaluated as safe, Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Dae-ki said on May 24 that South Korea's fisheries products exhibited no problems even directly after the Fukushima accident when substances more radioactive than the contaminated water went out into the sea.
By using this logic, the government has lost the justification to stop the wastewater release plan, said Park Seong-jun, spokesperson for the main opposition Democratic Party, or DP.
The DP proposed on May 24 that the National Assembly adopt a resolution opposing Japan's plan to discharge radioactive water from the Fukushima plant.
South Koreans are very concerned about the visit because the information on what they actually did is not released to the outside, said Lee Seok-woo, a professor at the Inha University Law School. More time should be given to evaluate the safety of nuclear wastewater, Lee said.