By Bae Ji-sook
Seoul is never safe from North Korea’s artillery attacks such as the one that broke out on Yeonpyeong Island earlier this week, analysts say.
As the capital city is filled with skyscrapers and a complicated layout of roads, the severity of damage that could be caused by any military attack threatens to be even higher, they said.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, there are 3,919 underground shelters in the city including the underground floors of public organizations, local administration units, large buildings and metro stations. The specific address and information of the shelters are listed on www.safekorea.go.kr.
The shelters can accommodate more than twice Seoul’s current population of about 10 million. “There are also some air-raid shelters that were built during Japan’s colonial rule (1910-1945),” Seoul city spokesman Lee Jong-hyun said Friday.
However, observers express different opinions. They said these facilities do not guarantee safety enough in the event of an attack; the bombardment on Yeonpyeong destroyed buildings, burnt infrastructure and killed two civilians and two soldiers.
Moreover, in the event of a nuclear weapons attack, the current underground shelters might not be able to block the radioactive fallout and other life-threatening materials.
There are 23 nuclear-proof shelters with independent power plants, automatic pollution detectors, alarm systems and survival kits including food for two weeks nationwide, but none exist in Seoul. Moreover, the existing ones are designated as being intended for public organizations and their staff, practically banning access to civilians.
“Nuclear-proof shelters are independent spaces requiring a lot of money to build. Therefore, they are located in military facilities and within Cheong Wa Dae,” Lee said.
We are currently creating such facilities in the underground of the soon-to-be-built City Hall in central Seoul. We hope to build more such facilities,” Lee said.