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South Korea vows customized aid to Japan

Red Cross, businesses send donations, aid supplies to help victims


The South Korean government said Tuesday that it will provide customized assistance to Japan when the quake-stricken country makes an official request through the Foreign Ministry.

Seoul tries to unify the channels for assistance to Japan while the Korean Red Cross and businesses are joining in the donation campaign.

“The government will make necessary efforts to provide all assistance in an orderly manner and in a way that is most helpful for Japan to overcome the disaster,” Rim Che-min, minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, said in a press briefing.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be the single communication channel with Japan for all central governmental humanitarian aid, and each ministry’s aid plans will be reviewed and finalized by the Prime Minister’s Office, according to Rim.

“We believe the two countries’ Red Cross, which are collecting donations for relief, should be the basic discussion channel for nongovernmental aid,” he said.

The Korean Red Cross said that it will provide $1 million in donations for disaster relief through the Japanese Red Cross on Tuesday, and that more will be sent later.

Rim asked nongovernmental institutions, organizations and companies that wish to make donations or rescue efforts to consult with the government first, citing a law on overseas disaster relief and the need for systematic and effective aid.

“As for now, aid supplies or donations may not be delivered properly,” he said.

Local administrations, businesses and civic groups are asked to consult with the ministries of home affairs, knowledge economy and health, respectively.

The Seoul government plans to promptly gauge the earthquake’s impact on the global and Korean economies, and address local concerns over the safety of atomic power plants amid continued explosions at Japan’s Fukushima plant.

“The Prime Minister’s Office will take the overall responsibility in managing situations related to the Japanese quake,” Rim said.

The government plans to check on all energy-related facilities, dams, dikes and other establishments that are vulnerable to earthquakes across the country by early April.

It already examined local nuclear plants and petroleum storage bases between Sunday and Monday.

Meanwhile, a number of Korean companies have joined the donation campaign.

Samsung and LG groups said they plan to donate 100 million yen ($1.22 million) each and send relief equipment.

“We are very shocked and saddened,” said Samsung Electronics vice chairman Choi Gee-sung and president Lee Jae-yong in a condolence letter to their Japanese business partners.

“We wish for the safety of the employees and the families and will fully cooperate for an early recovery and resumption of production.”

The group said it will dispatch 10 rescue workers and 11 medical workers after consulting with the Japanese government. It will also provide 2,000 rescue kits jointly with the Korea National Red Cross.

Daum, an Internet portal service, said it has raised more than 40 million won from some 900 Internet users in its donation campaign so far.

Asiana Airlines was the first to offer aid to Japanese citizens in affected regions. The company has been providing water and food through its Japanese branch since Saturday, and flew over more supplies including blankets and instant noodles Monday.

KB Financial Group is also exempting transfer fees for individual and corporate clients sending or receiving money to and from Japan, and reducing fees arising from buying yen by 90 percent.

Other conglomerates including Hyundai Motor Group, SK Group, LG Group and POSCO have pledged donations and assistance for the neighboring country. 

By Kim So-hyun and Choi He-suk
(sophie@heraldcorp.com)(cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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