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S. Koreans step up efforts to help quake-stricken Japan
SEOUL, March 15 (Yonhap) -- From the president, to top celebrities, companies and ordinary people, South Korea is stepping up efforts to help quake-stricken Japan as the neighboring country is grappling with its worst natural disaster ever.

   The gigantic tsunami spawned by a 9.0-magnitude offshore quake last week swept northeastern Japan, claiming thousands of lives and the death toll is feared to rise.

   President Lee Myung-bak called for the international community to make all-out efforts to help Japan and offered condolences to the families of victims. "All countries in the world should pay attention to Japan and cooperate (for its recovery work)," Lee said Monday while on a trip to the United Arab Emirates.

   Seoul has dispatched more than 100 rescue personnel to the quake-ravaged areas and pledged to provide as much support as possible for Japan.

   The development could help improve relations between South Korea and Japan, which have often been strained by historical disputes stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

   Relief organizations and local civic groups joined the campaign to collect donations and aid supplies.

   Korea Disaster Relief Association said it plans to provide 4,000 emergency supply kits that include blankets, clothing and underwear, in addition to 150,000 bottles of water.

   The Korean Committee for UNICEF said it has launched a donation campaign through e-mail as well as social network services such as Facebook and Twitter.

   The local office aims to initially raise 1 billion won (US$888,000) and extend its donation campaign over the next two months in a bid to raise restoration funds, it said.

   The Community Chest of Korea has said it would donate US$500,000 to Japan for relief efforts.

   South Korean celebrities also joined the campaign. Bae Yong-joon, a hugely popular actor in Japan, has donated 1 billion won to the Japanese government, according to his agency.

   Ryu Si-won, an actor who also enjoys immense popularity in Japan, is also set to donate 200 million won to Japanese victims.

   On Tuesday, South Korea's public broadcaster KBS plans to air a two-hour live fundraising program. Another major broadcaster, MBC, also plans to air a similar donation program on Wednesday.

   Daum, one of the nation's major Internet portals, raised more than 40 million won from some 900 netizens in less than two days after launching a donation drive. South Korea is one of the most densely wired countries in the world, with 95 percent of its people having access to high-speed, broadband Internet.

   Also Tuesday, Samsung Group, South Korea's largest business conglomerate, said it has donated 100 million yen (US$1.22 million) to help Japan's earthquake relief.

   The group will also dispatch 10 rescue workers from Samsung Rescue Corps. and 11 medical workers from the Samsung Medical Center after consulting with the Japanese government, it said in a statement.

   Asiana Airlines Inc., one of the top two Korean air carriers, has provided blankets, instant noodles, mineral water and other relief items to Japan.

  (END)
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