It sounded like the opening scene of a half-decent zombie film. Radiation from Japan picked up in the wind and carried over to Korea ends up in the clouds, and then it rains. A radioactive shower to poison the wells, waste the land and sicken the children. A sort of Singin’ in the Rain meets the nuclear apocalypse. But it rained this morning in Seoul and no one died.
It’s another case of misinformation and people believing anything, followed by plenty of hype and absolutely no danger at all. Honestly the radioactive rain turned out to be vaguely disappointing, although a few people’s reactions were quite comical. For example, the student who came to class today holding a folded-up golf umbrella in front of him like it was a venomous spider, making sure not a single drop of rain touched him. Or the 130 odd schools that actually suspended class because of fears for the safety of children (Herald Sun) and the ministry of Education website that was bombarded with messages from parents demanding/begging/politely requesting that all schools be closed. And one of my co-workers had their umbrella stolen. Actually, that just happens every time it rains.
There are two points I find interesting about this. The first is, people in Seoul are generally very wary of the rain. Even without nuclear meltdowns across the East Sea – say ‘Sea of Japan’ in Korea and they will throw you overboard – people always tell me that Seoul’s rain is dirty, acidic, industrial and to be avoided at all costs. This explains why everyone here wields massive umbrellas and workplace umbrella theft is common. Strangely though, when it snows, I often see unconcerned old Korean women on buses, their dark, permed hair generously coated with snow. Isn’t snow just frozen rain? They kind of look like walking lamingtons.
Crap, now I miss lamingtons. The second point is this – Koreans do not trust their elected officials. The government and the weather people very clearly stated that the levels of radiation in the rain were well below harmful, and urged calm. And to be fair, today was business as normal for the average Seoulite – unless you were lucky enough to attend one of the closed schools. But all of my students told me they were being extra careful, and that the government could well by lying. Lying? Seriously? Well it’s the same with tap-water. The mayor of Seoul actually drank some of the stuff once to prove it was safe and drinkable, but I’ve met very few people in Seoul (Korean or otherwise) who touch the stuff. Again, no one believes a word of it.
I don’t know about you, but I like to think when elected officials say something won’t kill you or make you violently ill, I believe it. And for the record, I do drink the tap water here and I feel fine. Once the burning sensation passes, and the feverish screaming subsides, it’s cheaper than buying the bottled stuff.
If you’re interested, the blog has just been featured on WordPress’ ‘Freshly Pressed’ round-up of interesting blogs. My page views went from 2 a day (seriously) to 1500. Thanks for all the comments too, even the spam ones sounded complimentary – ‘Hey nice pics. Discount Canadian pharmaceutical warehouse check out our stock.’ I’ll be putting up some more stuff on my recent Malaysia/Sydney trip, then it’s back to comments and weekend travelling around this lovely – and totally not radioactive – peninsula.