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Seoul public buildings to be refitted against earthquakes by 2026

All public facilities in Seoul will be seismically retrofitted by 2026, said officials Thursday, in a move taking its cue from March’s devastating earthquake in Japan.

The “Program to Raise Seoul’s Seismic Performance” by the Seoul Metropolitan Government is designed to ensure that the city’s infrastructure and buildings will be earthquake resistant.

All public facilities found to fall below a certain seismic performance will be given 10 to 15 years to seismically retrofit the buildings and will be fined if their owners fail to do so.

According to city officials, some 63 percent of hospitals and 23 percent of all elementary, middle and high school buildings in Seoul are seismically retrofitted at present.

If they surpass the safety standard and are proven earthquake resistant, structures within the city will be rewarded with tax reductions and other incentives.

The capital has also proposed to the central government that construction laws be modified so that even buildings up to two stories high have a certain seismic performance standard.

Seoul officials are also looking to accelerate its plan to seismically retrofit the city’s infrastructure by 2014, two years earlier than previously planned.

The subway lines run by Seoul Metro ― lines one through four ― will also be required to undergo reinforcement by 2013, a year earlier than planned.

Lines five through nine are already deemed earthquake resistant.

The local government also plans to bring the percentage of seismically retrofit bridges, overpasses and roads from some 68 percent to 85 percent by 2014.

In March, a government report estimated that more than 27,000 buildings would be completely destroyed, while 550,000 would be left damaged should a 6.5 magnitude earthquake occur in Seoul.

The capital and surrounding areas could also see more than 7,700 people dead and 200,000 people injured or left homeless.

Experts predict that a 6.5 magnitude earthquake is the biggest Seoul can see, considering its distance from the nearest fault line ― a 40,000-km circum- Pacific earthquake belt which runs along the edge of the Pacific.

Korea has seen five quakes exceeding a magnitude of 5 since 1978, when the Korea Meteorological Administration began recording seismic activity.

By Robert Lee (