In tense days, Yeonpyeong shelter signs hard to find

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In tense days, Yeonpyeong shelter signs hard to find

Anxiety ran high for people staying put on Yeonpyeong Island yesterday, the third day of the Key Resolve exercises jointly held by South Korea and the U.S.

A 51-year-old worker named Seo Suk-jin, who arrived on the island 10 days ago as a construction worker, told the JoongAng Ilbo he made sure he knows all the locations of the shelters on the island in case North Korea follows through with its bellicose rhetoric and shells it.

Seo said he has one complaint. “It is hard to find direction signs for the shelters. Those who are new to the island will have a hard time finding the shelters [if the island is bombarded again].”

When the JoongAng Ilbo visited 10 of the 11 shelters on the island, there was not a single direction sign on the roads. Signs were only found in front of shelter gates and on the street corners leading to the shelters. One underground shelter below a local public health center was built to accommodate 265 people during an air-raid.

Instead, the underground shelter was filled with fitness equipment, including a ping-pong table.

“I thought this place was built as a gym for locals,” said a woman in her 70s who was running on a treadmill.

To get into one of the seven newly built shelters, one would have to climb a four-meter (13.1-foot) ladder to get to the shelter gate. One shelter located at Yeonpyeong Elementary School does not have a light switch.

Kim Jung-soo, head of the management team at the Yeonpyeong township office, said some shelters were intended to be used as gyms and cultural facilities.

“We will increase the number of signs so visitors to the island will have no trouble locating the shelters,” said Kim.

Adding to the problems related to shelter management, the available shelter space cannot accommodate the entire population of the island. The 11 shelters now in place on the island have a capacity of 1,872 people, 200 short of the registered population of 2,078.

During the spring, when the demand for construction on the island is high, an additional number of 500 to 600 workers come to the island, worsening the shortage problem.

Residents are calling for more shelters to be built, especially one at an elementary school now under construction. Once open, the school will have around 120 students and teachers. The nearest shelter to the school can accommodate 80 people.


By Lee Jeong-bong [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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