|▲ Students are wearing earthquake prevention hats in an earthquake evacuation drill. (Source: Geumgangilbo)|
Recently, several strong earthquakes hit Japan only 10 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. On February 13, a magnitude 7.3 earthquake occurred on the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, and on March 20, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake occurred on the coast of Miyagi Prefecture in Tōhoku region. Although there were no tsunamis, 150 people were injured. Luckily, there was no loss of life. This was unlike the Great East Japan Earthquake which caused major casualties. The recent earthquake was similar to the magnitude 5.4 earthquake that hit Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province of South Korea on November 15, 2017, injuring 118 people.
Of course, Japan was not good at responding to the earthquake at first. But after the Great East Japan Earthquake, which left 18,000 people dead and missing, Japan strengthened its disaster preparedness and raised citizen awareness for disaster response. Since Japan is a country where earthquakes occur frequently due to its geographic location, it organizes disaster prevention manuals well and executes actual earthquake evacuation drills very often. Then, how did Japan establish such an excellent earthquake prevention system?
Japan's education and training system on earthquake response are unmatched compared to other countries. From elementary school, Japanese people are required to learn about emergency preparedness twice a year in the event of an earthquake and learn swimming skills to raise the survival rate from secondary damage such as tsunamis. Every local government also contributes towards disaster preparedness as well. Sendai City in the Tōhoku region provides special training twice a year, and Tokyo distributes its disaster preparedness manual called "Tokyo Disaster Prevention", online and offline to all Tokyo residents.
In addition, a variety of technology is incorporated into Japan’s earthquake prevention system to reduce earthquake damage. Japanese broadcasting stations utilize a real-time data sharing system with the National Weather Service to immediately send warnings in the event of an earthquake with a magnitude of 3 or higher. Also, they stop all broadcasts, replacing them with disaster broadcasts when there is an earthquake with a magnitude above 6. Telecommunication companies send emergency disaster text messages to citizens in the most vulnerable areas before the earthquake hits. These emergency messages are easily noticed because the mobile phone makes a loud warning sound even if it is on silent. In Shinkansen, sensors are installed everywhere to detect minor earthquakes, and automatic earthquake identification systems are installed in subways, elevators, household gas pipes, and electric switchboards to detect vibrations.
In the case of earthquake engineering and design, great efforts have been made to expand infrastructure in damaged areas. After the 1978 Miyagi Prefecture earthquake, the Japanese government strengthened the law to: "Design buildings to prevent negligible damage in magnitude 5 earthquakes and prevent the collapse in magnitude 6-7 earthquakes." Due to the strengthening of the law, only 1% of the buildings collapsed during the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, while over 5,000 people were killed at the same time. In an attempt to strengthen infrastructure around major population centers, hundreds of kilometers of seawalls were constructed along the Pacific coast, and construction was carried out to raise the foundations of areas vulnerable to be hit by tsunamis.
Hong Tae-kyung, a professor in the Department of Earth System Sciences at Yonsei University, once said on the CBS radio that, "Because Japan's earthquake is a trigger, South Korea is no longer a safe zone." This means that South Korea, which is geographically close to Japan, is also located in an area with a high risk of earthquakes. It is clear that Japan has established a robust earthquake prevention system. Earthquake evacuation drills are also held in Korea, but at a level that is not comparable to Japan. Korea experienced severe earthquakes in 2016 and 2017, and the possibility of additional earthquakes should not be overlooked as the frequency of earthquakes is gradually increasing. It is very important to implement systematic disaster prevention policies for natural disasters. Therefore, South Korea should take action to prevent damage from earthquakes as soon as possible to save lives.
By Park Jung-hyun,cub-reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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