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Parties slam government's earthquake countermeasuresBy Yeo Jun-suk
Published : Sept. 13, 2016 - 15:01
The ruling Saenuri Party and opposition camps asserted that the Ministry of Public Safety and Security, the nation’s top disaster agency, failed to inform the people swiftly enough about disaster news and safety protocol when the 5.3 magnitude earthquake hit south of Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.
The Saenuri Party’s chief noted that the disaster agency’s alarm system failed to send text messages about the disaster to the public. The agency has used text messages to alert the public about emergency events and climate abnormalities, like extreme hot weather.
The state agency’s website was also temporarily shut down when the earthquake struck Monday evening. Telephone services in the southern region of South Korea were temporarily unavailable and KakaoTalk, the nation’s most popular mobile messenger, stopped working for a while as well.
Officials attributed the shutdown to massive inflow of traffic from users inquiring about the disaster, admitting the nation’s alarm system is not as advanced and responsive as those used by countries with a record of such natural disasters, such as Japan.
“There is a substantial limitation to broadcasting the disaster using text messages,” said Kim Hee-gyum, a director of Ministry of Public Safety and Security who oversees disaster response. “We need investment to provide advanced service like Japan.”
Opposition parties, for their part, also denounced that the government’s disaster alert system, charging that it failed to address the nationwide disaster despite the effort to overhaul the safety system after the Sewol ferry sinking in 2014, which left 304 dead or missing,
In response to a public outcry that mounted in the disaster’s aftermath, the government announced a system overhaul by disbanding the coast guard and creating the Ministry of Public Safety and Security to improve disaster prevention systems.
“It seems to me there was no one to tell the people about the surprise disaster and come up with an emergency plan,” said The Minjoo Party of Korea’s leader Rep. Choo Mi-ae during the party meeting. “The only thing changed after the Sewol disaster was the people, not the government.”
Cheong Wa Dae, meanwhile, said that President Park Geun-hye was notified about the earthquake promptly by the presidential secretary for disaster response and public safety.
“Being notified and giving instruction is something that the president must do,” Presidential Spokesperson Jung Youn-kuk told reporters on Tuesday.
Cheong Wa Dae’s reaction to the Sewol tragedy and President Park’s whereabouts were under fire during the Sewol tragedy. Some media outlets alleged she had been away from the presidential compound when the tragedy occurred.
By Yeo Jun-suk (email@example.com)
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