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Gov’t vows to help SMEs hurt by quake in Pohang

Dec 14,2017
The government on Wednesday promised 12 billion won ($11 million) to revive the Jukdo Market in Pohang, which was badly affected by a major earthquake last month.

During a visit to Pohang, Minister of SMEs and Startups Hong Jong-haak pledged to invest 12 billion won to revive the market, which was on top of another government pledge of 13.7 billion won in assistance for 171 small to medium size businesses and mom-and-pop stores affected by the 5.4-magnitude quake on Nov. 15.

The quake forced the government to postpone the 2018 College Scholastic Ability Test, which was originally to take place on Nov. 16, affecting nearly 600,000 college applicants across the nation.

On the new 12 billion won aid pledge, the minister said the government “would make sure that benefits would meet its intended goal” of helping those directly affected by the earthquake.

He also said the government will lower interest rates on affected businesses’ loans to 1.9 percent and extend repayments by a year.

The ministry said in a press release Wednesday that following consultations with the Finance Ministry, it will attempt to lower interest rates to 1.5 percent and extend debt payments by up to three years.

Hong also met with executives of Pohang-based Posco, the country’s largest steelmaker, and won assurance from its vice president, Ahn Dong-il, that the company will extend parts delivery deadlines to help parts suppliers, many of which are located in the city.

Five days after the quake, the Moon Jae-in government declared the city a special disaster zone, qualifying it for more than 144 billion won in aid in total.

The government estimated that Pohang had suffered 55.1 billion won in property losses from the quake and subsequent aftershocks.

The damage was about five times the 11 billion won of damage wrought by a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang in September 2016. The number of Pohang residents who are still living in temporary shelters in the form of tents in gyms now stands at 567.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]