Christchurch quake shakes up Koreans

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Christchurch quake shakes up Koreans

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Rescue workers yesterday at the collapsed Canterbury TV building in which two Koreans may have died after the Christchurch earthquake. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

The second earthquake in five months has rattled Koreans living or studying in Christchurch, New Zealand, after two students were declared missing and many Korean homes and businesses were damaged. Some are thinking of leaving the country.

Two young Koreans studying English in Christchurch are missing after the tremor that killed at least 75, and are feared dead or trapped inside a collapsed building, local authorities said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Seoul identified them yesterday as a 25-year-old man identified by the family name Yu and his 21-year-old sister.

The two, who came to Christchurch last month to study at King’s Education College English language school, were presumed to be in the Canterbury TV building, which housed the school and collapsed in the earthquake, the ministry said.

AFP reported there was little chance of them surviving or being rescued.

The Korean government said there were five or six other Koreans who might be declared missing.

Of the 5,000 or so Korean residents in the city, a substantial number sustained damages to their homes or shops or were suffering through power outages.

While a 7.2-magnitude quake in September did little damage to Christchurch and caused no casualties, the 6.3-magnitude earthquake Tuesday caused numerous buildings to collapse. At least 75 people were killed, and 300 others remained missing as of yesterday, according to the New Zealand authorities.

Christchurch, the second-largest city in New Zealand, is a popular spot for young Koreans to study English and has some Korean companies.

According to residents in the city, some Koreans returned home after September’s quake.

Luke Lee, a Korean-New Zealander who has lived in the country for the past 16 years, said he expected an exodus of Koreans after the earthquake.

“With so much damage, the tremor this time feels totally different from the one we had in September,” said Lee. The floor of Lee’s house buckled in the quake, two televisions were smashed and he has no running water, he said. “Many Koreans remain nervous because of the continuing aftershocks.”

Seo Yong-mun, LG Electronics’ official in charge of its Christchurch branch, said Korean companies in the city were having logistics difficulties due to damaged roads and computer problems caused by the power outages. He said the disruption will continue until early next week.

Korean travel agencies with branches in New Zealand such as Korean Air and Hana Tour predicted a decrease in the number of customers wanting to travel to New Zealand.

The Foreign Ministry said a 24-member government emergency rescue mission was going to travel to Christchurch yesterday, but New Zealand asked that it not be dispatched. Instead, one diplomat is being sent from Seoul.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]


Related Korean Article[중앙일보]
어학연수 온 한국인 남매 2명 실종


강진이 발생한 뉴질랜드 남쪽 섬 크라이스트처치에서 한국인 2명이 실종됐다. 외교통상부는 지진으로 무너진 CTV 건물에서 연수 중이던 유모(25)씨와 여동생(21)이 실종됐다는 신고가 접수됐다고 23일 밝혔다.

이들 남매는 어학 연수를 받으려 1월 15일 뉴질랜드에 입국했으며 현지에서 홈스테이를 해왔다. 학생들을 어학원과 연결해준 현지 유학원에 따르면 이 어학원에는 유씨 남매 외에도 5~6명이 수업을 받고 있었던 것으로 파악돼 추가로 실종자가 생길 가능성을 배제할 수 없다.

외교부 관계자는 “나머지 학생들의 소재도 현재까지 파악이 안 되고 있다”며 “뉴질랜드 대사관의 영사와 오클랜드 분관 영사 2명이 현지에 나가 피해 상황을 확인하고 있다”고 말했다. 현재 6층 높이의 건물 붕괴 현장에서 100여 명이 구조된 상태다. AFP통신은 현지 소방관의 말을 인용해 더 이상 생존자가 없을 것으로 보이는 데다 CTV 건물의 추가 붕괴 위험이 있어 구조대를 다른 곳으로 이동 배치하고 있다고 전했다. 크라이스트처치에는 5000여 명의 한국인이 거주하고 있다. 교민들은 연락망이 구축돼 있어 소재가 파악되지만 어학 연수생이나 관광객들의 경우 안전 여부를 확인하는 데 어려움을 겪고 있다.


외교부는 이날 재외공관장회의 참석차 한국에 들어온 노광일 주뉴질랜드 대사를 현지에 복귀시키고, 신속대응팀을 현지로 급파했다.

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