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Firms not pulling out of Japan... despite spreading fears

Companies vow not to abandon Japan, but families question decision


Korean companies with offices in Japan on Wednesday said they would not withdraw their employees despite the massive earthquake and tsunami that has reportedly left more than 10,000 people dead or missing.

The firms, which mostly have offices and operations in Tokyo, said their decision to stay was based on the belief that they should not be shirking their responsibilities and that the employees’ well-being was not being compromised.

But as reports of possible exposure to radiation continued to spread, the families of those stationed in Japan battled fears and concern.

“I fear for my son, but I don’t know when he will be able to return because of company policies,” said the mother of one employee of a company with operations in Japan who declined to be identified. She also refused to give the name of the firm her son was employed in.

Samsung currently has 150 employees stationed in Japan, but said it has no plans for withdrawal.

“We are watching the situation carefully, but have no plans of withdrawing,” said Lee Kyoung-hwa, a spokeswoman with Samsung Global Communications Group.

LG was on the same page with Samsung.

“We have no production lines in Japan, and the areas that the offices are located are in Tokyo and other safer areas, so we don’t feel the need to take any action as of yet,” said one LG spokesman.

LG has overseas corporations and branch headquarters of affiliates such as LG Electronics, LG Display, LG Chem and LG CNS, with more than 100 employed at the electronics firm alone.

Hyundai Motor also said it would not be calling back employees from its commercial vehicle sales team in Japan.

The decision from the local firms differs from those of foreign companies based in Japan.

Germany-based BMW has recently said any one of its 800 employees stationed in Japan would be eligible to request to deport from the country.

So far, some 50 workers have said they want to return to Germany, BMW spokespeople said, while the head of BMW’s Japanese corporation has opted to work from Korea.

Japan is coping with what its prime minister said was the biggest crisis since World War II after an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude hit Friday.

There is widespread concern of exposure to radioactivity from a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, although experts and the Japanese government have said the amount of radioactive materials would not be enough to caused physical harm.

Despite the assurances, Tokyo, which was considered to be relative safe, are seeing citizens fearing possible exposure, with many opting to stay indoors.

Earlier on Wednesday, radioactivity levels near the Fukushima plant appeared to rise to record-high levels, although they dwindled later on to normal levels.

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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