According to the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, 85% of the refuse that washes ashore on the Japanese coasts comes from South Korea. (It’s easy to identify the origin of containers or packaging for commercial products.) The Japanese government disposes of 100,000 tons of seaside trash annually.
The sheer mass of garbage has overwhelmed Tsushima’s ability to deal with it all. Some of it has to be shipped to Fukuoka for disposal, saddling the municipal government with a 5-million-yen bill (about $US 50,000) every year. Islanders have formed an NPO consisting of about 80 volunteer sanitary engineers, but they have trouble storing all the debris until it can be disposed. (The trash they collect is bagged and fills up a parking lot at a business site owned by one of the members.)
Tsushima officials asked Seoul to help clean up some of their mess. The Korean response has been largely a volunteer effort. About 300 university students come from Seoul for a weekend every year to pick up after their countrymen. One report says they managed to gather an estimated 200-300 tons in a weekend, but that would mean each student stooped over and picked up a ton of trash by themselves in a two-day period. Some Korean women’s groups have also volunteered to help.
While the islanders are resigned to the inevitability of becoming the dumpster for a certain amount of flotsam and jetsam because of their geographical location, having to spend so much time and money to rid their own back yard of rubbish that should have been handled in South Korea is unlikely to inculcate feelings of international friendship.
Here are the annual statistics for the number of Korean tourists coming to Tsushima through its two seaports starting in 2003. The figures in parentheses represent the percentage of tourists accounted for by South Koreans among all foreign tourists to the islands.
2003: 15,725 (97.9%)
2004: 21,055 (99.3%)
2005: 36,768 (99.5%)
2006: 42,467 (99.4%) That year the number of South Korean tourists surpassed the island’s population.
2007: 65,750 (99.5%)
Comments [ 0 ]