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Korea to tighten quake rules on small buildings

Korea is seeking to tighten its construction code for smaller buildings in order to better protect them from massive earthquakes, the land and transportation ministry said Friday.

The move comes as concerns are growing that Korea might not be immune from massive earthquakes like the one that hit Japan last week. Experts are also calling for the government to step up its efforts to better brace for possible future disasters.

“We are seeking to revise a construction law to strengthen quake-resistant capacity for two-story and smaller buildings,” the ministry said. “The government will complete its final plan for that by next week.”

Under the current law, only large buildings with more than two stories and floor space of more than 1,000 square meters are required to be built according to quake-resistant guidelines. Most smaller structures are not subject to the requirement.

But as smaller buildings compose about 84 percent of the total construction facilities in Korea, concerns have been raised that they are vulnerable to any earthquake.

As for concerns about a possible spike in construction costs due to the tightened law, the ministry said that it plans to introduce a “standard” construction design for such smaller buildings, a move aimed at making it unnecessary for builders to employ quake-related design personnel.

The ministry expected that the obligatory quake-resistant features could increase the overall construction costs by 3-5 percent but its envisioned standard design will limit the hike to about 1 percent.

The Korean Peninsula has been considered relatively safe from quakes but the massive 9.0-magnitude quake that devastated Japan last Friday raised concerns about Korea’s readiness against such natural disasters.

The renewed anxiety prompted the Seoul government to explore diverse ways to strengthen the quake-resistant capacity of the nation’s buildings and key infrastructure. 

(Yonhap News)
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