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S. Korean firms mull evacuation of Japan-based workers

Several South Korean firms are considering evacuating their Japan-based employees or moving their operations to southern Japan amid growing concern over a nuclear crisis there, company officials said Thursday.

   Japan is battling to minimize nuclear disaster following Friday's devastating 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami that claimed thousands of lives and crippled a nuclear plant 240 kilometers north of the capital Tokyo.

   Thousands of foreigners are moving out of the affected areas.

Fears of health risks from radiation leaks from the nuclear plant in Fukushima are also growing rapidly.

   Samsung Group, South Korea's largest business group, said it has around 400 workers in Japan, and most of them reside in Tokyo.

   "As of now, we don't have plans to evacuate them from the country. But dozens of workers and their families in the quake-hit Sendai area have already moved to Tokyo," said an official at the group. "But we are preparing for a worsening scenario, and our workers will leave the country if conditions change."

   LG Group also said it did not have any immediate plans to evacuate its Japan-based employees. The group said it has simply ordered them not to move to areas damaged by the quake.

   SK Group also said its operations in Japan are going smooth as of now. "We have four workers in Tokyo but aren't thinking of evacuating them as of now," said an official at the group.

   But Daewoo Shipping & Marine Engineering Co., South Korea's second-largest shipbuilder, has evacuated its two Tokyo-based employees and their families from Japan.

   "We ordered them to leave Japan for their safety, and temporarily closed our operations there," said an official at Daewoo Shipbuilding.

   Shinsegae Co., South Korea's second-largest department chain operator, said its workers in Tokyo will come back to Seoul later in the day.

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