|Security Minister Kang Byung-kyu|
The majority of officials at the Ministry of Security and Public Administration did not receive training for disaster management, government data showed Wednesday.
The revelation, coupled with the ministry’s poor handling of the recent deadly ferry sinking, has sparked public furor over the government’s apparent incapability to manage accidents.
According to data revealed by Rep. Lee Chan-yeol of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, only 318 ministry officials participated in the employee education program on disaster management. The program is designed to teach government officials how to react in the face of calamities.
|Rep. Jin Sun-me|
While the number of trainees marked a significant increase compared to 2008-2012, when 182 people received the training, it was still a fraction than at other state-run institutions whose main task is to deal with accidents.
From 2008 to 2013, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission had a yearly average of 5,959 trainees in the same program. The Financial Services Commission, which deals with financial security, had an average of 3,912 employees receiving the education from 2008 to 2010.
Rep. Lee’s data also showed that even officials of the Cultural Heritage Administration, whose job does not usually involve dealing with disasters, participated more actively in the program ― with a yearly average of 686 employees ― than those of the Security Ministry.
“It is apparent that the ministry virtually paid no heed to reinforcing its capability to deal with disasters,” said Rep. Lee. “The lack of competence and security awareness is one of the reasons behind the Sewol ferry tragedy.”
Criticism has mounted over the ministry’s lackluster response to the capsizing of the Sewol on April 16.
Both the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition NPAD blasted the ministry at Wednesday’s parliamentary session where Security Minister Kang Byung-kyu reported the ongoing operations related to the sunken ferry.
“(The ministry) took an hour to report the incident to the president, and claimed the situation was under control two hours after the accident,” said Rep. Lee Jae-ho of Saenuri Party, calling the government “incompetent.” In the initial stages of the accident, it was reported that all the passengers from the Sewol were rescued, causing the presidential office to mistake the case as a minor accident.
Lee said nearly everyone aboard could have been saved if only the deadly accident had been promptly reported.
Rep. Jin Sun-me of the NPAD lambasted the officials for wasting time arguing about mundane issues during the critical early stages of the rescue operation, such as whether to move the rescued survivors to a spot closer to high-ranking officials.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)