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S. Korea relatively safe from major quakes: experts

  DAEJEON (Yonhap) -- South Korea is relatively safe from major earthquakes, although there is a need to pay close attention to developments taking place in countries such as Japan, local geological experts said Friday.

   Lee Hee-il, head of the geological research division at the state-run Korea Institute of Geoscience & Mineral Resources (KIGAM), said the country is relatively insulated from the kind of quake that hit Japan earlier in the day.

   "The country is situated deep inside the Eurasian tectonic plate, with the closest major fault line a thousand kilometers away," he said. The researcher said that Japan is located over the Eurasian, Pacific, North American and Philippines plates, thus resulting in frequent quakes. The latest quake's epicenter is estimated to be located 179 kilometers east of Sendai, Japan.

   Lee said that even if there is a massive quake in Japan its power dissipates quickly with distance.     

   While the quake that struck northeastern Japan is estimated to have reached a magnitude of 8.8 at the epicenter, local earthquake centers only registered it as a magnitude 7.0 quake, Lee said, adding that the quake wave passed through South Korea without causing any damage.

   This view was shared by Park Choong-hwa, a engineering professor at Daejeon University who said that most quakes that take place in Japan have little impact on South Korea so there is no reason to be overly concerned.

   He said that the country actually is more affected by changes in the Indian-Australian tectonic plates that are pushing up against the Eurasian plate.

   Despite this, some domestic earthquake researchers have said Seoul needs to carefully monitor developments taking place in neighboring countries.

   A source at the Korea Meteorological Administration said that although most quakes that hit on or near the Korean Peninsula are under a magnitude 3.0, tremors that can be felt by people do take place.

   He said that in 2010 there were 42 quakes picked up around the country and that six have been detected so far this year.