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March 16, 2011

South Korea Steps Up Aid Effort to Japan After Disasters

South Korea plans to dispatch more emergency assistance to Japan, which is in dire need of humanitarian supplies in the wake of last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami. Despite an often rocky relationship between the two nations, aid groups say many Koreans are eager to help out Japanese victims.     

South Korea is expected to spend millions of dollars in helping its neighbor Japan cope with the devastation of last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

Already, a 100-member search and rescue team has been sent to the hardest-hit areas. And reports here say the government is planning to dispatch plane loads of food, bottled water and blankets to help the Japanese victims.

Kim Junja, the director of international relations at the Korean Red Cross, the organization coordinating some of the relief effort, says many South Koreans are demonstrating concern about their neighbors in Japan, despite a history of resentment stemming from Japan's harsh period of colonial rule, which ended in 1945.

"We the Korean Red Cross officially had launched a fund raiser for helping the victims in Japan," said Kim. "Already, many companies and many individual peoples are rushing to the Red Cross to make donations”"

Local civic groups here are also trying to help Japan through the aftermath of the disasters.

Koh Jin Kwang, who manages a humanitarian relief organization in Seoul, says volunteers from his organization just came back from helping out after the earthquake in New Zealand. They are now planning to send around 150 volunteers to Japan to assist with search and rescue.

But Koh says that might have to wait until problems at Japan’s Fukashima nuclear plant are resolved.

Radiation continues to leak from the plant, which suffered damage from both the earthquake and tsunami.

South Korea has offered to help Japan avert any more radioactive contamination by sending boron reserves. Boron is the material inserted into nuclear fuel rods, which slow down fission. Japan has been mixing boron with seawater in an effort to cool down the stricken reactors.