SEOUL-- President Moon Jae-in vowed efforts Monday to prevent further damage from the recent earthquake that struck the southeastern city of Pohang, also urging additional support for students set to take the annual college entrance exam.

"The government will do its utmost to quickly repair damage by mobilizing all its administrative resources while also making sure the exam will be conducted without any disruption," the president said in a weekly meeting with his top aides at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

The remarks came hours after the government designated the quake-hit Pohang and its surrounding areas as a special disaster zone in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.

The designation entitled the region to a wide range of government subsidies and benefits for victims, which may include tax breaks and cash payments.

"For now, repairing damage and conducting the college scholastic aptitude test (CSAT) without a disruption are the most urgent tasks. Once the urgent tasks are done, the government will conduct a full review of its preparations against disasters," President Moon said, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

The CSAT was originally scheduled to be administered last Thursday, one day after the 5.4 magnitude quake hit the southeastern port city of Pohang.

The test has been pushed back to the coming Thursday as the tremor and dozens of aftershocks left more than 5,000 buildings, including many schools and CSAT test centers in the region, damaged.

"There could be more aftershocks on Nov. 23, the new date for the CSAT," Moon said. "The government will have manuals for all possibilities ready."

Turning to international issues, the president again stressed the importance of Southeast Asian countries, citing his recent trip to Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines for regional forums that included the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

"Through my trip to Southeast Asia, I personally confirmed the rapid and dynamic growth of ASEAN. I could also sense that the ASEAN countries have great expectations for us," Moon said.

"ASEAN's share of the global economy is rapidly growing, and its share of our own economy, too, is expanding quickly. That is why boosting our economic exchange with ASEAN is also so important to us as we prepare for a post-China era by diversifying our export market in order to reduce our dependence on the Chinese economy," he added.

During his three-nation trip that ended Wednesday, the president unveiled his New South Policy, aimed at greatly enhancing the country's economic and diplomatic ties with the 10 ASEAN countries.

He called for government efforts to quickly implement the new foreign policy.

"I ask you to take necessary follow-up measures under close consultation with related ministries so the New South Policy will not become a mere declaration but produce tangible outcomes in the near future," Moon said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency