TACLOBAN CITY – South Korean government will be spending $30 million (32 billion South Korean won) in its one-year reconstruction of government buildings in three typhoon-ravaged towns in Leyte.
Lt. Baek Myunghyun, public relations officer of the Korean joint support group deployed in Leyte, said they will prioritize the removal of storm debris and reconstruction of hospitals, public schools and municipal halls in the typhoon-stricken towns of Palo, Tanauan and Tolosa.
“This place needs immediate recovery.  As much as we like to help everyone, it’s difficult to address all the needs. Our focus is the repair of public facilities so that everyone could benefit,” Baek told Leyte Samar Daily Express.
The official said they immediately heeded the Philippine government’s request for aid, recognizing the country’s participation in the 1950s Korean War.
“The driving factor why we came here is the 7,500 Filipino youths who came to South Korea during the war where about 112 of them died. We want to return back to Filipino’s generosity,” Baek said.
The team, which called themselves “Araw” had brought with them 100 equipment, consisting of back hoes, pay loaders, military trucks, ambulance, buses and fumigation trucks. Heavy equipments arrived in Leyte on December 28, 2013 onboard the Korean Navy ship Sunginbong Birobong.
“To Korea, the Philippines is a friend nation and the first country to participate in the Korean War and helped us defend our freedom and peace,” he added.
The troops, composed of members of South Korean army, navy, air force and marines is now currently repairing the Leyte Provincial Hospital in Palo town and two schools in Tanauan and Tolosa. Construction officially started January 6 and will be completed by the end of the year.
“We’re working on an environment that is unfamiliar for us. We’re using construction materials and methods that are local. That one year mission is not definite. An extension may occur depending on the agreement between two governments. We’re still leaving that option open,” Baek said.
The troops opted to use local construction materials and methods to ensure the project will be continued by locals if in case they will not be able to finish the project after the mission.
The Korean team, which belongs to the first contingent, will stay in Leyte until June 2014. Another team will replace them in the middle of the year until December. The team is now building their base camp in Government Center in Palo, Leyte.
Aside from reconstruction activities, the troop will also conduct medical missions and hold cultural presentation to make the Filipinos familiar of Korean culture. “Our work here will reinforce the friendship of Filipinos and South Koreans,” Baek added.