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Koreans admire Japan’s calm

March 15, 2011 - 10:36 By 이종민

Many Koreans spent the weekend in front of televisions watching news of the magnitude-9.0 earthquake, tsunami, and volcanic and nuclear power plant explosions shaking the eastern part of the Japanese archipelago.

They were first shocked by the natural disaster and then impressed by the calm of the Japanese people, even in the face of such a catastrophe. Koreans paid their condolences and praised the Japanese people for their dignified reaction, which may have prevented further deaths.

That earthquakes were regular parts of their lives might have reduced the death toll: Schools hold earthquake drills every month with students’ parents participating more than once a year while all people memorize rescue and escape manuals by heart, while offices and large buildings are equipped with first aid kits and emergency food to help people survive aftershocks. But there was something more. 

Evacuees line for meals in a shelter in Soma city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 14, 2011, three days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the country's north east coast. On top of the losses of family and friends along with property, evacuees in the area are now faced with the fears of radiation contamination from damaged nuclear facilities near by.(AP-Yonhap)

“No one seemed to be out of their minds. No one blamed, complained or instigated anyone or anything. They seemed to be focused on settling the situations and to maintain the orders,” Choi Sun-hee, a 53-year-old housewife, said Saturday night as she watched TV news of people queuing to be rescued and children waiting patiently for their teachers’ and parents’ directions.

“Usually, people would cry out loud asking for food and shelters. They would blame the government for ill conduction of measures against natural disease. The shops would be vandalized and moral hazard would be detected everywhere,” she said.

Such chaos was reported in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the earthquake in Haiti last year. The confusion was perceived as quite natural, observers said.

However, Japanese took a different stance. A reporter staying in the disaster stricken Miyagi Prefecture witnessed a sense of strong order and unity.

“At a hotel, which was used as a shelter, people lined up for supplies. They would put the elderly, disabled, sick and young people to the front of the queue so that they could get the items ahead. When 10 bowls of soup arrived, they would pass them to the back of the queue, yielding to others,” he said.

He said people were sharing items with one another, trying to encourage each other rather than moan about their loss. “It was as if they were holding their own grief so that someone who had graver sorrow could hold theirs,” he said.

“I was totally moved by the way people reacted to the nightmare-ish disaster. I pay all my respect to the people standing calm, working for the recovery,” a college student, Kim Eugene, said.

Japanese people’s attitude caught Koreans’ eyes when 10 Japanese tourists were killed by a fire in a shooting lodge in Busan in 2009. The bereaved families did not shout for compensation or make a scene. They wept and expressed their subtle grief, collected the dead bodies of their beloved ones and went back to their country without fuss.

“Japanese people are known for not showing too much of their emotions, especially when they are negative ones, exteriorly. They also believe that death isn’t the end of their lives,” Kim Eun-jung, who has stayed in Japan for several years, said.

She said the Japanese people’s sense of “meiwaku,” a desire to not offend anyone, led to the harmony. “This is something we should learn from them: Always think about others and grab control of yourself amidst the deep and overwhelming devastation. That will save us at the end,” she added.

By Bae Ji-sook (

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<日 강진> 한국도?…과도한 불안감은 금물

전문가들 "일본 국민의 침착한 대응 배워야"

일본에서 강진과 쓰나미로 인한 대규모  인명피해에 이어 원자력발전소 폭발에 따른 피폭자가 나오는 등 피해가 잇따르는 가운데 한국에서도 이에 따른 불안감이 고조되고 있다.

국내에 일고 있는 불안감은 대략 

△한국에서도 일본과 같은 강진이 발생할 수 있나 

△한국서 강진이 발생한다면 인명피해가 더 큰 것 아닌가 

△한국의 원자력발전소는 지진에 안전한가 

△일본 원자력발전소의 방사능 물질이 한국에 넘어오는 것은 아닌가 등으로 추려진다.

실제 일본의 강진 발생 이후 포털사이트 등에는 이런 우려를 담은 네티즌들의 글이 넘쳐나고 있다.

특히 일본에서 후쿠시마(福島) 원자력발전소의 방사능 누출 가능성이 대두된 이후 한국 기상청이 "후쿠시마 원전의 방사능 누출 가능성에 따라 대기 확산에 관한 시뮬레이션을 통해 영향 정도를 분석한 결과 우리나라에는 영향을 미칠 가능성이 희박하다"고 밝혔지만 일부 네티즌 사이에서는 불안감이 여전한 편이다.

하지만, 전문가들은 "지진이 발생한 이후에 나타나는 여러 가지 상황을  예의주시해야겠지만, 확인되지 않거나 과장된 정보에 근거를 둔 과도한 불안감은 자제해야 한다"는 지적을 내놓고 있다.

서울대병원 정신과 권준수 교수는 "일본에서 발생한 재앙이지만 우리나라가  인접국인 만큼 큰 관심의 대상이 되는 것은 당연하다"면서 "특히 평소 불안이나  공포를 잘 느끼는 사람은 시시각각으로 전해져 오는 일본의 피해사례를 접하면서 곧  자신에게도 닥칠 위험으로 느끼는 등 정신적으로 영향을 받을 수 있다"고 분석했다.

권 교수는 "문제는 이런 과도한 불안감이 개인 건강이나 국가적 대응책 마련에 좋지 않게 작용할 수 있다는 점"이라며 "과학적 근거가 확실치 않은 소문에 휩쓸려 과도하게 불안해하기보다는 정부나 언론의 보도에 귀를 기울이면서 이성적으로 대응하는 게 바람직하다"고 권고했다.

오히려 전문가들은 일본의 이번 강진을 계기로 일본 국민이 보여준  일사불란하고 침착한 대응을 우리가 배워야 한다는 지적을 내놓고 있다.

서울대의대 예방의학교실 강대희 교수는 "일본이 강진에도 피해를 최소화할 수 있는 것은 무엇보다 모든 국민이 지진에 따른 대피요령을 숙지하고 있었고, 정부의 방침에 잘 따랐기 때문"이라며 "더욱이 이런 대규모 피해상황에서도 일반 시민이 질서를 유지하고, 별다른 일탈사례가 없었던 점은 우리가 꼭 배워야 할 점"이라고  강조했다.

강 교수는 또 "일본의 원자력발전소 폭발에 따른 국내 방사능 피해 우려는 아직 현실적이지 않은 만큼 크게 불안해할 필요는 없다"고 덧붙였다.