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(LEAD) S. Korea to extend record aid for quake-hit Japan: officials

All Headlines 21:42 March 16, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with result of civilian-government meeting on emergency overseas relief at bottom)

SEOUL, March 16 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government's donation, including emergency supplies, for quake-devastated Japan is expected to exceed US$12.5 million, an all-time high in its foreign aid history, officials at Seoul's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

The largest-ever foreign aid planned for Japan comes as the world's third-largest economy is trying to recover from last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands, as well as a looming radiation crisis.

The plan, however, will force the Seoul government to consider seeking a supplementary budget as its funds for relief assistance for advanced countries are running low, said the officials.

"Our government's efforts to help Japan cope with earthquake damage will cost a considerable size of our budget. With the available related funds standing at just $50,000, we'll have to secure the additional resources from the supplementary budget," said a ministry official.

South Korea recently provided quake-stricken New Zealand with $150,000 out of a total of $200,000 earmarked for the relief assistance this year, leaving only $50,000 at the ministry's disposal, said the ministry.

Seoul donated $5.48 million to China for its massive quake in 2008 and $5 million to the United States for the deadly Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to the ministry.

It was not immediately known when the ministry will make the formal request for the supplementary budget.

Meanwhile, Seoul plans to deliver winter clothes, food and other supplies to the South Korean rescue team in Japan on Thursday by three Air Force C-130 planes. Seoul is also considering airlifting bottled water, blankets and other relief supplies to the quake-ravaged areas by using commercial airplanes, though no timeframe has been set yet.

The government decided on Wednesday to appoint the foreign ministry and the Korea National Red Cross (KNRC) as the country's official channels for sending government and civilian aid, respectively, to Japan, according to the ministry.

The decision was made in a civilian-government meeting to discuss ways to promote efficiency in the ongoing relief activities and at the request of the Japanese government to unify South Korea's windows for sending aid, the ministry said.
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