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Lee calls for customized aid to Japan

President reaffirms safety of Korean nuclear power facilities

President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday said that Korea should provide customized assistance to Japan as the neighboring country reels from its worst-ever recorded earthquake and tsunami.

“Because we are close, we can send what Japan needs in the shortest period of time,” Lee told ruling Grand National Party chairman Ahn Sang-soo at the beginning of their breakfast meeting in Cheong Wa Dae.

“We should provide Japan with customized aid,” or aid tailored to what the country actually needs, Lee said.

It was Lee’s first formal meeting with Ahn in four months aimed at discussing pending state affairs.

As for local concerns over radiation leakage following explosions at Japan’s earthquake-crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Lee reiterated that Korean atomic power plants were safe as they were built under stricter safety criteria.

“The Japanese nuclear plants were built 40 to 50 years ago, whereas ours were designed after safety rules were toughened, so are safe,” Lee said.

Lee also stressed that Internet rumors that radioactive contamination will spread to Korea should be stopped.
President Lee Myung-bak (second from right) meets top officials of the ruling Grand National Party at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap News)
President Lee Myung-bak (second from right) meets top officials of the ruling Grand National Party at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap News)

The president asked GNP lawmakers to personally contact their Japanese counterparts to offer condolences and ask them what the country needs.

Ahn mentioned that the GNP organized a special committee to deal with issues related to the earthquake and started collecting donations.

In response to Ahn’s request for the government’s prompt decision on where to locate a planned new international airport and a science-business belt, Lee warned against conflict within the GNP.

Lee said earlier that his administration will handle the matters, which have triggered fierce competition among local authorities seeking to win the lucrative projects, within the first half of this year.

“The problem is that there is contention within the ruling party, instead of between ruling and opposition parties, over a state project,” Lee was quoted as saying by GNP spokesperson Ahn Hyung-hwan.

“I appreciate the GNP for asking its legislators to refrain from getting involved in the new airport issue. State projects should not be affected by political rationale. The government should request for (politicians’) self-control with an economic rationale.”

Also during the meeting, Lee complimented the GNP leader for the recent passage of a bill on reforming the country’s massive agricultural cooperative federation which he said was “historic.”

Under the legislation, the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, “Nonghyup” in Korean, will be broken into two holding companies and a central oversight cooperative, a measure aimed at better reflecting farmers’ demands.

Lee also expressed strong determination to get PyeongChang to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. The small town in Gangwon Province is making its third bid to host the Winter Games.

“We must win it this time,” Lee said.

“I will meet and persuade members of the International Olympic Committee when I make overseas trips and meet with them when they visit Korea.”

By Kim So-hyun (