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South Korea opts out of Tokyo Olympics food program, causing uproar

South Korean Olympians will take meals separately from the rest of the athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, according to reports. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
South Korean Olympians will take meals separately from the rest of the athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, according to reports. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

July 19 (UPI) -- A South Korean decision to create a separate food program for its athletes during the Tokyo Olympics is causing controversy after Japanese and South Korean media reported the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee is wary of contaminated ingredients from Fukushima.

Japanese daily Sports Hochi reported Sunday that the South Korean committee made the unilateral decision on behalf of all Korean athletes to opt out of the food program for Olympians at Tokyo's Olympic village.

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The report comes after Yomiuri Shimbun said Saturday that the Korean committee "claimed that there is a risk of radioactive contamination" from eating food sourced from Fukushima Prefecture. An earthquake and a nuclear disaster hit the region in 2011.

An official from the prefecture told Sports Hochi that there are "no problems" with food from Fukushima.

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"The shipments were confirmed to be safe, and there are no problems," the source said, according to the report.

The South Korean team has historically flown in food from the homeland to the Olympic games. In 1996, South Korea shipped at least 2 tons of kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage dish, to Atlanta to feed its Olympians.

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This time, South Korea could be sending 14 chefs to Japan to cook 420 meals daily for its team, the Japan Times reported. The food staff for Korean Olympians could include as many as 20 people when including nutritionists, according to South Korean news service News 1.

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The South Korean decision has drawn outcry in Japan.

Masahisa Sato, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told the Yomiuri that South Korea's decision "tramples the hearts of Fukushima residents." Japanese social media users also decried the move.

Representatives from other countries say they are not worried about food sourced from Fukushima.

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Kyodo News reported Sunday the Australian team's chief medical officer, David Hughes, confirmed his team "definitely feels it's safe to eat" ingredients from the Japanese region.

The Summer Olympics begins Friday.

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