The South Korean government on Sunday dispatched a nuclear safety expert to quake-hit Japan to better respond to health problems among Korean residents there.
Jung Kyu-hwan, a radiation expert and senior researcher at the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety, will control radiation levels and prepare for any new developments, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said.
Passengers from Japan arrive at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul on Sunday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
After double disasters struck the northeastern coast of Japan on Friday, officials were struggling to contain the widening atomic crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant, some 250 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.
Earlier on Friday, the Seoul government sent Chang Jai-kwon, another KINS researcher, for the protection of the 107-person Korean rescue team, which had been operating in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture since last Saturday.
With two thirds of the crew members moved to the western coastal city of Niigata, the remaining 31 also joined the main force Saturday due to dangers of radiation contamination.
“We moved the rescue team to Niigata as our rescue mission in Sendai has been completed,” said an official from the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.
“They will be stationed in Niigata and schedule further rescue missions with the Japanese government.”
The ministry also said Saturday that 97 of the 102 Korean nationals who were reported missing in Japan’s Iwate prefecture have been confirmed alive.
However, the whereabouts of the remaining five Koreans in Iwate and 90 others in Sendai have yet to be confirmed.
“As the communications systems in Japan are restored, we are succeeding to contact with a growing number of Korean nationals there,” said a ministry official.
Of the 1,008 people reported missing to the Korean Consulate General in Sendai, 918 were confirmed to be safe while the fate of 90 others had yet to be verified.
The Korean government said Friday that it will mobilize military aircraft and Coast Guard vessels to pull citizens out of Japan should the nuclear crisis escalate to a dangerous level.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org