South Korea has designated the earthquake-hit Gyeongju City and surrounding areas in North Gyeongsang Province as a special disaster zone.
This is the first time the government has designated any region as a special disaster zone due to damage incurred from earthquakes. The Ministry of Public Safety and Security recommended earlier on Thursday that the Gyeongju area be declared a special disaster area.
The move resulted from the scope of the quake damage having surpassed seven-point-five billion won, or six-point-eight million U.S. dollars, which is the barometer for disaster zone designation.
The designation allows the central government to inject additional support to restoration efforts. Special disaster zones can receive state funds for up to 80 percent of restoration expenses which are normally shouldered by provincial authorities.
Under a special disaster zone status, affected residents also receive benefits in their tax, health insurance and utility fee payments in the form of deductions or delayed deadlines.
Those in agro-fisheries and small and mid-sized firms will also be given priority in provisions of loans for operation and facility maintenance or extension of payment deadlines.