The main opposition party blasted the office of President Park Geun-hye on Thursday for trying to dodge responsibility for the deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol after the national security adviser said he was not in charge of overseeing disaster management.
National security adviser Kim Jang-soo made the remark Wednesday through presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook, after a local newspaper singled him and four other high-level officials out for failing to do their work properly in handling the aftermath of the sinking.
Kim said his national security office “is not the control tower” for handling disasters, and its main duties are limited to national defense and security matters. The remark was seen as unconvincing as the top office had said last week that Kim reported the ferry accident to President Park Geun-hye and took necessary measures.
The remark prompted strong criticism that Cheong Wa Dae is trying to shift the blame to other government offices amid mounting public anger that more lives could have been saved if the government had properly handled the sinking that left nearly 300 people dead or missing.
“How can Cheong Wa Dae, which is supposed to show an attitude of ultimate responsibility, say the national security office is not the control tower for disasters?” said Rep. Jun Byung-hun of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy during a party meeting.
“Genuine security refers to protecting the lives and property of the people,” he added. “The government was not there when and where the people needed it badly. This is what makes us more frustrated and angry.”
Fellow NPAD Rep. Woo Won-shik suggested that the top office was “out of its mind.”
“It is not only the ferry Sewol that sank. The government’s disaster management system sank, too,” he said. “At the top of the system is Cheong Wa Dae. Unless it is out of its mind, how can it say that at a time when it can’t repent enough (for the disaster)?” Woo added.
As public anger grew over the government’s mishandling of the sinking, Park’s approval ratings dropped sharply this week, a survey showed Thursday.
The approval number fell steadily over the week to reach 56.5 percent on Wednesday from 71 percent last Friday when Park visited the site of the accident and met with families of those missing, said Lee Taek-soo, head of survey agency Realmeter, in a Twitter post.
Growing dissatisfaction with the way the government handled the sinking is believed to have contributed to the sharp drop, he said.
It is unusual for the agency’s chief to release results of weekly surveys on Twitter. The agency usually announces survey results on Monday.
On Monday, the agency said Park’s approval ratings stood at 64.7 percent in a survey of 2,500 people from April 14-18, a 1.6 percentage point rise from a week earlier. The telephone survey had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
(From news reports)