Fluoride Action Network

Four cities decide to stop fluoridation in South Korea

Source: Korean National Coalition Against Fluoridation | July 31st, 2003
Location: South Korea

Water fluoridation which has been practiced for over 20 years without any consent from citizens, is now put on the brake in South Korea. Recently, the four city councils -Chongju, Pohang, Gwacheon, Uiwang- decided to stop the fluoridation of public water supplies, cutting the whole budget needed for it.

The addition of artificial fluoride into public water in Korea has been strongly advocated by an influential dental group called “Korea Dentists’ Association for Health Society” in association with the government health authorities since 1981. Their aggressive campaigns resulted in fluoridating 30 water plants by now, and in consequence, about 10% of the whole population are now living in the areas where fluoridated tap water is daily supplied. Last year, Korean ministry of health and welfare announced their plan to fluoridate 100 water plants by 2005.

Meanwhile, in December 2002, Chongju city council decided to cut the local fluoridation budget and thereby made it impossible for the city to continue fluoridation in the city. The city council made it clear that “ill effects of fluoridation on human body has not been yet proven and its supposed benefits of preventing tooth decay is still in doubt after the practice of fluoridation in the city over 20 years.”

The decision is very significant in that as one of the first experimental cities of fluoridation, Chongju has been regarded for a long time as a successful model showing the benefit of fluoridation by the dental profession. A city with its 500,000 population, Chungju has been fluoridated since 1982. The proponents of fluoridation have usually cited various statistics they claim to have gathered in this city as their scientific evidence to show the beneficial effect of fluoridation on the children’s teeth. However, in spite of all this, in recent years a serious concern about fluoridation has been growing and louder voices against fluoridation have been more and more raised among citizens.

Especially, “Chongju Citizen Action Group” formed in 2001 has played a major role in fighting against fluoridation. They have organized various anti-fluoridation activities, including public picketing for 100 days in relay among their members, and sending petition to and finally convinced the city council to refuse to accept the established practice concerning fluoride.

The city councils of Gwachoen and Pohang also respectively stopped fluoridation for the similar reason: “its ill effects on human body has not been clearly proved.” (Gwachoen with population of 70,000 was first fluoridated in 1994, and Pohang with population of 500,000 had been fluoridated since 1995.) There are again dedicated works of local voluntary citizens groups behind these outcome. They have vigorously tried to make the public aware of the risk of fluoride-poisoned water by organizing street campaigns, public hearings, and they were ready to visit regional water plant to show their strong protest against putting the poison into drinking water.

Uiwang city decided to stop fluoridation, shortly after a terrible accident: Tens of thousand fishes were poisoned to death with fluorosilicic acid which was leaked into Hakui rivulet by accident, apparently. It was only 8 months after fluoridation.

Meanwhile, Korean Medical Association which had traditionally supported water fluoridation has changed its position.

In January, 2002, their official statement announced that “we are not in definitely positive position about water fluoridation since there are not enough scientific and medical evidences on its effects on human health” and expressed their wish to withdraw their name from the list of professional groups endorsing water fluoridation.

This movement was followed by another announcement from the Korean Pharmaceutical Association in May, 2002, in which the latter said that the Pharmaceutical Association will not support the practice of water fluoridation until clear scientific evidence on its effects is available.

In addition, we are obliged to report another important proceeding regarding the Korean fluoridation campaign. In April, 2003, the Korean government health authorities, frequently challenged by growing opposition among citizens, attempted to revise the law to make water fluoridation mandatory nationwide. However, the attempt was frustrated in the national assembly earlier this month. We -against fluoridation- have contacted and persuaded some eminent legislators to speak out against the nonsense of fluoridation.

But, unfortunately, the proponents of fluoridation have got a partial success in that the official name of fluoridation was changed into “the program of controlling the level of fluoride in public water.” This change of name is, needless to say, a deceptive trick designed to make fluoridation more easily accepted in the mind of ordinary citizens. The legislators we contacted were indifferent to the name-change. Their understanding of fluoridation is not so deep, and we could not make them aware of the complicated stories behind fluoridation. From now on, we are planning to focus on drawing public attention to why the new name is sheer nonsense or even criminal fraud.