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Students returning to Japan

Seo Min-jung, just admitted into a doctoral program in Japan, decided to leave for the earthquake-hit country despite the concerns of her family.

Her course at the University of Tsukuba in a small town near Tokyo commences in April.

Even though the repeated reports about the natural disasters and the leakage of radioactivity from a nuclear power plant in Fukushima frighten her and her family from time to time, she remains determined.

“The school said the course could be delayed a little to settle some earthquake-related problems. The professors and local student council said Tsukuba is rather safe from the radioactive materials and the earthquake hadn’t been damaging at all,” she said.

“I believe things will be much better once I get there. After all, this is what I want,” she said, adding that she had invested her time and money for the study and that she wouldn’t want to waste it.

Seo is among many who have decided to go to Japan as planned after the threats posed by the earthquake and its subsequent tsunami and nuclear crisis have subsided. With most schools starting their semesters from April, the rather relieved people are now willing to return to their ordinary lives. They share information about the condition and availability of each school through online communities and are encouraging each other.

According to Incheon International Airport, the number of people arriving from Japan is dwindling this week. “The number topped on March 18 with 11,282 and has been declining,” the airport spokesman said. He said the fast recovery of the power plant and electric infrastructures are seen to have contributed to the change.

The Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, both of which have operated additional flights between the two countries, have decided to reduce the flight schedule as the occupancy is back to that of pre-earthquake days.

The working holiday industry is also showing some signs of recuperation. The idea of working and learning foreign language at the same time draws people even in the worst times, the Herald Business daily reported Wednesday. It quoted an agent as saying, “Some fearless people take this situation as an opportunity to grab better jobs through less competition.”

Meanwhile, the Korean emergency rescue squad dispatched to Japan was to return home later Wednesday.

After arriving here, the 106 members were set to go through medical check up at the National Medical Center. “The Japanese government expressed gratitude to the Korean agents who have braved the risks,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

By Bae Ji-sook (