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Bracing for earthquakes

Nov 17,2017
In the wake of the magnitude 5.4 earthquake Thursday that hit the southeastern city of Pohang, the 2018 College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) was delayed one week to Nov. 23. As a result, essay tests to be held at more than 10 universities were postponed to Nov. 25 and 26 depending on each college’s schedule. We welcome the Ministry of Education’s prompt decision to put off the test by a week.

But the problem is a chain reaction of repercussions. Beyond the obvious anxieties of 590,000 students after the postponement, 6,000 test-takers in Pohang alone are experiencing extreme stress due to continuing aftershocks in the region and the possibility of their exam locations being changed.

Universities must help students. They need to readjust their calendars for the benefit of their applicants. For instance, they need to change their academic calendars for undergraduate students so that the delayed test does not affect high school students. Universities must present their finalized test schedules as soon as possible so as not to cause any disadvantage to examinees.

Schools were actually hard-hit by the earthquake. 10 out of 14 schools designated as test locations saw their outer walls and windows broken. In some cases, the walls of main buildings and cafeterias collapsed. We are deeply embarrassed to hear that only about 20 percent of our elementary, middle and high schools across the country can withstand earthquakes.

Old houses and small commercial buildings suffered more damage than others, as seen in their collapsed roofs and cracked floors. Authorities say that only 20.6 percent of all structures in Korea were designed to be earthquake-resistant. More surprising is that only 13 to 15 percent of the buildings in metropolitan areas like Busan and Daegu, close to Pohang, have such designs.

On Thursday, the government announced it will toughen the standards for earthquake resistance. That’s not enough. It must offer subsidies to building owners to reinforce their buildings to make them earthquake-resistance.

The government must build more shelters. Despite its population of 10 million, Seoul can accommodate only 40 percent of its citizens at times of earthquakes. The Korean Peninsula is not safe from earthquakes. Earthquake experts warn that a quake over the magnitude of 6 can hit the country at any time. The government must not forget that massive disasters, like the Sewol tragedy, helped determine the fate of past governments.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 17, Page 34