South Korea to send 250 troops to aid Haiti
By Kim Ji-hyun, The Korea Herald/Asia News Network
January 23, 2010, 3:46 pm TWN
Seoul -- South Korea plans to send a 250-member force to Haiti by March for a United Nations (U.N.)-led peacekeeping mission to help rebuild the island in the wake of a devastating earthquake, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
A 10-member due diligence team will be sent next week to review the area and determine on-site needs.
Officials from the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, Joint Chiefs of Staff and military are to be on the team.
The Foreign Ministry finalized plans to send troops -- mostly consisting of mechanics -- to Haiti on Thursday following a U.N. call for countries to step up PKO help to restore stability on the quake-stricken island.
Vice Foreign Minister Chun Young-woo was set to meet with U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon yesterday (New York time) to discuss Seoul's plans and receive a go-ahead.
The government then plans to submit a related bill during the February extraordinary Assembly session to seek parliamentary approval.
Foreign Ministry officials Friday said it was critical to move the forces to Haiti as quickly as possible in order to help make a true difference in Haiti.
Countries have been competing to send peacekeeping troops.
Part of the reason, according to critics, was Haiti's strategic position in the Caribbean. Haiti is close to top anti-United States (U.S.) nations such as Cuba and Venezuela. This means the U.S. forces there are located between these nations. This means, experts said, Washington may have an opportunity to watch the political situation in that region, while at the same time improve its status in the eyes of countries there.
There are currently over 3,000 foreign troops in Haiti, and the number is set to increase.
Seoul's decision to send the PKO mission followed a recent pledge to send some US$10 million of relief aid. About two-thirds will come from the government in the form of short and long-term aid, while the rest was the result of collective efforts from the private sector.
Private organizations are expected to donate another US$2 million.
Seoul has mostly been sending supplies and relief workers.
On Thursday, a second group of South Korean medical workers arrived via nearby Dominican Republic. They were said to be preparing to set up an independent clinic in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince.
Tens of thousands of people have been confirmed dead since the small Caribbean nation was hit on Tuesday last week by a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake. A 6.1-magnitude aftershock struck Wednesday.