Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Preparing for everything: Korean response to recent events

Lately, I've been pretty riveted to the news of revolutions in the Middle East, however with the the earthquake in Japan and threat of nuclear disaster, my attention has been divided. Understandably, South Koreans including President Lee Myung-Bak have also been closely monitoring the unfolding events in their neighboring country.

Japan and South Korea's borders lie about 120 miles apart, with the Korea Straight dividing them.  As such,  South Korea has been an early responder in providing aid in the midst of the recent crisis in Japan, redirecting incoming shipments of liquified natural gas to address potential energy shortages, and providing Boron to stabilize nuclear reactors, and sending rescue teams.  They are also in talks to begin sending water and relief supplies. 

The Korean peninsula also faces the threat of quakes and tsunamis, and as such, President Lee said that it is necessary for Koreans to be thoroughly trained for evacuations in time of emergencies.  The nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant is a result of the recent earthquake and is drawing Korean attention to the need to be prepared for evacuation related to nuclear threats as well.  South Korea operates 20 nuclear reactors which generate about 35% of their electricity, and plans are on the table to build an additional 12 reactors in the next 14 years.

Pedestrians ducked into subway stations, office basements and dedicated air-raid shelters for yesterday’s emergency drill.

President Lee commented on Japanese emergency preparedness, stating 'It is impressive that Japanese people are responding to the disaster in a calm manner.''   On Tuesday afternoon President Lee called for a nationwide afternoon drill to practice evacuation measures not only for natural and nuclear crises, but also for the potential threat of attacks from North Korea, with whom they have technically remained at war since the Korean war 60 years ago.  Tension between the two countries has risen since the bombardment of Yeonpyeong, a Korean border island, in November of 2010, which resulted in 4 casualties.

Smoke rises from South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island after it was hit by artillery shells from North Korea on Nov. 23, 2010

During the drill, traffic was halted in central Seoul, with sirens signaling pedestrians to find designated shelters.  Over 25,700 state-designated shelters were renovated after the conflict last year. 

1 comment:

  1. Nikki, why do I still see pix of Asian people wearing masks? I remember the SARS scare but that was years ago wasn't it?