Helping a Neighbor in Need
Throwing aside centuries of animosity, South Korea and nearly all of Asia are pulling their resources together to help earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan. The sliver of a silver lining to catastrophe.
BUSAN, South Korea -- Though the two countries have a troubled past and a relationship strained with historical animosity, South Korea, a former Japanese colony, is stepping up to help their closest neighbor, Japan, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the country last Friday.
The Korean government announced in Seoul over the weekend that it would dedicate a portion of its natural gas imports to Japan from now until April to help address growing energy concerns in the earthquake-ravaged country.
"We will redirect parts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from third countries through late March to April to Japan," an official at Knowledge Economy Ministry told AFP.
Japanese power officials asked for Seoul’s help, predicting that it could take more than a month before Tokyo can offset energy shortages caused by damage to key nuclear power plants, officials said.
"It’s time to show our love, not only in the materialistic ways, but with constant prayers and hope."
Negotiations with exporting countries are underway, but it is unclear how much gas from South Korea, the world's second-largest importer of LNG, will be diverted to Japan, the world's top LNG importer.
Asia Steps Up Efforts
With the noteworthy exception of North Korea, which broadcast news of Japan’s tsunami two days after it took place, practically all of Asia is chipping in to help, offering money, supplies, relief workers or at least sympathetic condolences to Japan and their plight.
Taiwan, one of several countries in the region which were former Japanese colonies, has pledged by far the largest Asian donation, promising more than $3.3 million. Thailand has promised $164,000 and China, through its Red Cross, will donate $152,000.
Additionally, China has offered up military search and rescue personnel, as well as tons of needed equipment including power generators. South Korea has already deployed more than 100 relief workers, while Indonesia and Thailand, both which turned to Japan for aid after the devastating 2004 tsunami, are both dispatching teams to help.
Korean Boots on the Ground
The Korean National Red Cross will also be sending thirty doctors from Seoul National University Hospital and the Red Cross Hospital to care for Japan’s elderly citizens affected by the quake and subsequent tsunami. The National Red Cross said on Saturday that they would additionally launch a fundraising campaign aiming to collect 10 billion Korean won ($6.38 million) to be donated to Japanese victims.
The organization will also recruit Korean volunteers for the relief effort to also help take care of their own. “We will also cooperate with the Japanese Red Cross in searching for Koreans reported missing,” the group said in a press release.
Upwards of 900,000 Koreans live in Japan with more than 9,000 residing or traveling near Sendai, the quakes epicenter, according to the South Korean government.
Private groups are also kicking in to help. The Korean Church Relief organziation said they will dispatch six relief agents with 50 million won in funds to aid Japan. Speaking at a press conference over the weekend the group’s president, Lee Suk-jin, called on the Korean people to help the Japanese in whatever way possible.
“It’s time to show our love, not only in the materialistic ways, but with constant prayers and hope.”
Korean Netizen Response
The tragedy has also triggered an outpouring of sympathy from Koreans who are most often reluctant to praise their historical rivals to the east, with thousands commenting on websites and blogs. One netizen tweeted:
“I would like to offer my condolences to disaster-stricken Japan. I feel sorry for the Japanese people. Let’s hope nothing serious happens from now on.”
There has also been a show of admiration flowing from Korean netizens.
“I admire the Japanese people who did not run out on the streets, cry out loud, push other people to get out of the mess even when they were mobilized to shelters, facing the threat of death. They stayed calm, tried to stay as focused and orderly as possible, which has minimized the damage. This is something we should learn from them.”
As the Japanese and thousands of volunteers from abroad sift through the devastation left behind, we are at least left with a sliver of a silver lining: Asia is coming together, despite its troubled history, to help one of its own.
If you are interested in donating money to disaster relief, the American group, InterAction.org has put together a list of places you can send money to here.
Several bars in Busan will also be holding donation drives, such as The Basement during St. Patrick's Day. We will supply those locations as they become available.
Read more from Bobby McGill