April 12 (UPI) -- South Korea welcomed -- while Japan condemned -- a World Trade Organization decision to uphold a South Korea ban on Japanese seafood originating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone.
Japan is criticizing the decision despite evidence the product is not widely consumed or avoided entirely by Japanese consumers.
"Even though the ruling did not acknowledge that South Korea's measures comply with the WTO rules, it is extremely regrettable that Japan's argument was not approved," Tokyo's foreign ministry said Friday, after the WTO's highest court overturned a judgment from 2018. The verdict is final, according to Kyodo and other Japanese news services.
In Seoul, the ruling Democratic Party welcomed the WTO decision. Party spokesman Lee Hae-sik said in statement the verdict reflects the current administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to "actively defend the nation's health and food safety" and described the outcome as a "diplomatic victory," South Korean news service News 1 reported Friday.
Lee also said the ban on imports of seafood originating from the eight prefectures of Japan's Tohoku region, which are "at risk" due to the nuclear accidents at Fukushima plants, will be sustained.
Following the WTO verdict, Japan is turning its attention to the specialized United Nations agency.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested Tokyo will "cooperate closely with the United States" on WTO reform in order to "maintain and strengthen the multilateral trading system."
But the United States also has partial bans in place against Fukushima products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to monitor the public health risks due to radionuclide contamination and has placed an "import alert" on select Japanese products.
In Japanese fish markets in Tokyo, products labeled "Fukushima region" do not sell well and frequently at below market prices, South Korea television network MBC reported from Japan.
The seafood is not in demand despite safety screenings, according to the report.