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'Tastes like Fukushima' Korean YouTube video sparks outrage in Japan

July 12, 2023 - 18:07 By Moon Ki Hoon
A screenshot of the original video from Youtube channel "Yoiki," now edited (online community fmkorea)

A South Korean YouTube channel with 673,000 subscribers sparked outrage among Japanese and Korean internet users over incendiary remarks made in a travel vlog about Japan.

The controversial comments surfaced in response to a July 9 video titled "Would she like traveling to Japan on a 300,000 won ($232) budget?" which shows a 20-something couple who runs the channel visiting Kitakyushu, a city in the south of Japan. In the video, the two running the channel liken an airplane painted in a mural at Kitakyushu Airport to a "kamikaze" plane and say bottled water from a convenience store "tastes sort of like Fukushima."

The latter comment, now edited out of the video, is a direct reference to the meltdowns of the three reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that occurred during the deadly earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Up until now, 1.33 million metric tons of water have been used to cool them, which are being stored in giant tanks on the site. The incident remains the worst nuclear disaster of the 21st century.

Inappropriate remarks continued as the couple compared monzayaki, a type of Japanese pancake, to “vomit seen on the streets during college festivals.”

Angry comments from Japanese viewers promptly filled the video's comment section. One deleted comment highlighted the video's insensitivity by reminding people that 1.77 million inhabitants still live in Fukushima prefecture. The issue stirred further outrage on Yahoo Japan, the country's largest portal site, where news of the controversy ranked fourth in most viewed articles.

The channel issued an apology in response to the uproar, but further criticism from Korean viewers ensued after commenters compared the couple's comments in the video to if a Japanese national had mocked South Korea's Itaewon crowd crush tragedy or the Sewol Ferry sinking disaster. The couple denied any possible equivalence and the apology post, along with a number of the negative comments, were removed.