Korea set to send PKO to quake-torn Haiti in Feb.

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Korea set to send PKO to quake-torn Haiti in Feb.

The Korean government will dispatch peacekeeping operation (PKO) forces to earthquake-ravaged Haiti in the middle of this month if the National Assembly gives its approval next week, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.

“Since the United Nations asked Korea to deploy our PKO force quickly, we are planning to arrange a unit and send it [to Haiti] as soon as possible,” Yoo Jae-ik, an official at the ministry’s international policy bureau, said.

The move follows a survey of Haiti conducted by a joint research and investigation team composed of nine officials from the foreign and defense ministries and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The team started work on Jan. 29 and returned to Korea Thursday.

“The team visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, and the coastal city of Leogane, some 40 kilometers [24 miles] west of the capital, to see whether they’re good locations for our troops to be stationed,” said Yoo. “Currently, both cities are candidates for a military posts, but Leogane is being given priority consideration because it was suggested by Haiti’s prime minister and the commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission Force there.” Yoo said that Leogane was the second most devastated city after the capital.

Korea is planning to send some 250 PKO troops, mostly engineers and some military medical officers and marines, Yoo said. The engineers’ vehicles and tools will be transported to the Caribbean country with the help of private merchant ships.

The official explained that about 70 percent of all buildings in the capital and surrounding areas collapsed.

By Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]

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