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Emergency alerts to include English keywords

Feb. 28, 2024 - 15:06 By Lee Jung-joo

From Wednesday, emergency text alerts will include keywords in English to help people who don't speak Korean understand better what kind of emergencies are occurring, said the Ministry of Interior and Safety on Wednesday.

Emergency text alerts are alert messages that are sent to everyone who is within a certain radius of emergency situations, such as evacuation alerts and extreme weather events like earthquakes and heavy rain. These alert messages are categorized into three different types: critical emergency alerts, emergency alerts and public safety alerts. Among the three, only critical emergency alerts and emergency alerts are accompanied by a loud alarm.

Until now, emergency text alerts have been sent out only in Korean, a practice that has “left some non-Korean speakers in South Korea in confusion when such messages are sent,” according to a Ministry of Interior and Safety official.

As of Wednesday, English keywords will be added to Korean alert messages, to help residents and visitors who do not speak Korean. For example, when emergency alerts are issued due to earthquakes, the text will include the English keyword “Earthquake,” with the earthquake’s magnitude written as “M0.0.” The date and time the alert was issued will also be written in numbers only.

An example of how emergency text alerts will be issued starting Wednesday is demonstrated on the right. (Ministry of Interior and Safety)

“When non-Korean speakers receive emergency text alerts, the Ministry anticipates that they will be able to react to disasters from now on without confusion or anxiety and take self-evacuation measures, if necessary,” said an Interior Ministry official.

When asked why the emergency alerts would not be sent out fully bilingual in both English and Korean, an official said that text message character limits are too short to include fully bilingual messages and that there have been complaints about too many emergency alerts being issued.

Up until now, people who don't speak Korean have been able to receive emergency alerts via text and audio recordings in English and Chinese only through the government's Emergency Ready App, if they chose to download it. The app will still be in service after Wednesday’s changes to the emergency alert system.