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Mission Almost Accomplished for Antarctic Team

Posted January. 05, 2008 07:23,   


“Every day seems new here to me. I’ll return to Korea but I’ll never forget nature here.”

January 20, 2008, will see mission accomplished for the Korean team operating the Antarctic King Sejong base, which opened in 1988. The base has been replacing its staff with new members, its 20th group so far. Ten of the 17 Korean members will first depart and the rest will leave the South Pole in April after finishing reconstruction and repair at the base. Kim Hong-gwi, in charge of heavy machinery, is included in the group that will depart later, but he said he will miss the Antarctic.

Kim is the longest-serving member of the team operating the base next to captain Lee Sang-hun. Kim has been working at the base since 2000.

Besides Kim, Park Myeong-hui, a manager, and Lee Sang-hun, the cook, are veteran members who say they are fascinated by the unique attraction that the Antarctic provides despite the freezing cold and isolation.

Their daily routine is simple. During the Antarctic summer, they get up at 7 a.m., have breakfast, and hold a meeting at 8 a.m. They usually call it a day with “cleaning time” at 5 p.m. The members are divided into two groups. One group does research, and the other conducts machinery maintenance including electricity, communications and power generation. After dinner, however, they separate into a “drinker group” and a “non-drinker group.” The drinker group is said to have consumed about 2,000 bottles of soju a year due to the severe Antarctic cold.

Unexpectedly, the members say they prefer winter since they can see the beautiful sight of the South Pole surrounded by heavy snow and high seas. During a blizzard, the air was so thick and snow piled up to two meters overnight. An excavator and a snowplow are used to remove heavy snow.

Exchanges with stations run by other foreign countries are reportedly active. In July last year, Korea, China, Russia, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina participated in the Antarctic Olympics, which held at the Chilean base for five days. The Korean team surprised the other squads by making it to the competition after crisscrossing over the frozen sea.

Thanks to technological development, the Antarctic King Sejong base is not as isolated as in the past. Reliable Internet access came ten years ago, and staff have watched the 24-hour Korean cable news channel YTN programs via satellite TV since 2005.

Electrician Lee Seong-il said, “We can call home whenever we want, as a free Internet telephone service was connected last year."