All the citizens in Port-au-Prince, the capital city in Haiti, were shaken up because of a gate-crasher that destroyed their daily life. This gate-crasher was an earthquake of ML 7.0. There were people jumping of buildings in fear of losing their lives. The damage to the highway collapsing caused many vehicles hanging at the edge of the road. This tragedy in Haiti didn’t stop but moved along the plate to Chile, with much powerful force, an earthquake of ML 8.8.
Recently there has been an increasing number of news that reports a sad story from the world. Most of them are related to earthquakes (and the tsunami). These occurrences make people wonder what the reason is for so many natural disasters these days. Is this phenomenon something to do with what humans have done? Or… is the world going crazy and Mother Nature is choosing to murder innocent people. We will cover the issue of natural disasters in this article and try to establish whether or not Korea and the University of Seoul are safe from the threat of an earthquake both geographically and structurally.
According to Wikipedia, the “Plate Tectonics Theory” states that the lithosphere is broken into what are called tectonic plates. In the case of Earth, there are seven to eight major and many minor plates that move in relation to one other. While plates are doing this activity, many crustal movements ranging from earthquake to oceanic trenches formation are occurred along the plate boundary. In other words, the region near to the plate boundary has a high possibility to suffer from the earthquake. Fortunately, Korea is not too close to the plate boundary like Chile and Japan are. However, this distance cannot be interpreted as a far enough interval to be safe from these natural disasters. When the Korean Meteorological Administration started to collect the information about earthquake in 1978, there has been 5 big earthquakes so far in Korea. They were bigger than 5 Magnitude. Therefore, from this data we know that Korea can and has experienced earthquakes.
Since now we know that Korea’s territory has a potentiality that may experience significant earthquakes, it is essential for us to know how to stay safe. As previously mentioned, there were two big earthquakes that drew everyone’s attention; the disaster in Haiti and the one in Chile. Despite the intensity of the earthquake, the one in Haiti was 7.0 and Chile had an earthquake of ML 8.8, we can see significant differences between them. In Chile less people died than in Haiti. This was because of two reasons. First of all, the epicenter was located in much deeper depth in Chile. This can be a technical reason for smaller death rate because the surface absorbed greater amount of shock. At last but not the least, Chile’s well-earthquake-prepared building enabled their country to suffer less. After the great earthquake in 60s, Chile enforced laws to be strict regarding the construction of buildings to ensure they were built according to an earthquake-resistant design with proper rescue equipment available at each building. Needless to say, it is important that Korea has to reduce the possible deaths which may be caused by an earthquake by enforcing more strict building codes.
In 2005, the Korean government greatly escalated the standard of an earthquake-resistant design construction. Essentially, it is applied to higher than six story buildings or larger than a gross area of 10,000m2 and higher than three story buildings. In addition, all the buildings which have value of preservation (like museum, memorial hall) should be constructed with an earthquake-resistant design. The construction should endure a 5 to 6 magnitude earthquake. This size of earthquake is predicted to happen in Seoul in 500 to 1,000 years. At the UOS, there are many buildings, but only seven buildings are built with the earthquake-resistant design. They are the University Center, the Design and Sculpture building, the IT building, the Student Dormitory, the 21st Century building, the General Lecture and Law Institute, and the Science and Technology building. The other buildings only passed the structural safety examination, because they were built before the earthquake-resistant design became effective in 1988.
However, there are still some problems which could threaten our safety when or if a huge earthquake occurs. The matters are illegal remodeling of buildings, the domino effect, and the lack of disaster drills. After the buildings pass the safety regulations, some apartment owners demolish part of the walls to enlarge the living room. This is very dangerous because it will not only affect the safety of the remodeled apartment residents, but also the other residents in that building are at risk. The domino effect is caused by collapse of buildings, such as masonry structures, against other old buildings. To prevent it, urban redevelopment plans could be a good solution. Lastly, the lack of disaster drills only can be solved by education. Nevertheless, there are very few earthquakes in Korea; it is hard to expect that the government will start the earthquakes drills. Therefore, it is up to apartment owners to be aware of evacuation measures when an earthquake occurs.
To summarize, the best way to reduce losses from an earthquake is to prevent it in advance. Though Chile had stronger earthquake than Haiti, it substained less damage, because Chile is a country which has had many earthquakes and they were able to reduce the losses through preventative measures. From this knowledge and the fact that Korea is vulnerable to earthquakes, we must be proactive. For example, earthquake-resistant designs, reinforce the disaster drills, and well-placed rescue equipment is essential. In addition, when an earthquake unexpectedly occurs it is important not to wait for the government to help you. What we strongly recommend that you help each other, however, we hope that Korea will never experience the devastation of an earthquake!
The attached table shows the earthquake effects by the Richter magnitudes scale.
Frequency of occurrence
Less than 2.0
Micro earthquakes, not felt.
About 8,000 per day
Generally not felt, but recorded.
About 1,000 per day
Often felt, but rarely causes damage.
49,000 per year (est.)
Noticeable shaking of indoor items, rattling noises. Significant damage unlikely.
6,200 per year (est.)
Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions.At most slight damage to well-designed buildings.
800 per year
Can be destructive in areas up to about 160 kilometers (100 mi) across in populated areas.
120 per year
Can cause serious damage over larger areas.
18 per year
Can cause serious damage in areas several hundred miles across.
1 per year
Devastating in areas several thousand miles across.
1 per 20 years
Never recorded; see below for equivalent seismic energy yield.
Extremely rare (Unknown)
Song Jin-young / Jeong Yu-mi Reporter
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