SEOUL--South Korea’s Environment Ministry announced on Aug. 8 that it will strengthen inspections of coal ash imports, a move seen as a countermeasure against Japan’s recent decision to tighten export control measures against Seoul.

South Korea imports coal ash disposed from coal-fired thermal power plants overseas to make cement.

Once a quarter, it has carried out inspections of such ash to check for radioactive materials and heavy metals.

From now on, however, all coal ash imports will be inspected at the time of import.

The South Korean government also indicated a policy of increasing the reuse of coal ash released from domestic thermal plants as a backup measure.

As more than 90 percent of Japan’s coal ash exports are to South Korea, the change is expected to have a considerable effect.

Last year, South Korea imported about 1.27 million tons of the material, nearly all of it from Japan.

An official of the Japanese trade ministry said: “We've learned about the South Korean government’s announcement through the news media. But as we haven’t received formal communication, we are unable to comment on it.”