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Justice minister apologizes over massive virus outbreak at detention center

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (Yonhap)
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (Yonhap)

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae on Friday apologized over massive coronavirus infections among inmates at a detention center in Seoul.

Choo has been under fire for belatedly responding to COVID-19 infections at Dongbu Detention Center in southeastern Seoul, in which over 900 cases have been confirmed over the past month.

"As justice minister overseeing correctional facilities, I feel sorry for causing anxiety among people with regard to the spread of the coronavirus at Dongbu Detention Center," Choo said in a social media post.

"Infectious diseases such as the coronavirus tend to undermine the most vulnerable in our society," she said. "Vulnerable areas in judicial affairs administration can also be exposed, and that is the case for an overpopulated prison to which infectious diseases can be very deadly."

Choo said that the detention center in question will be turned into a facility where people infected with the virus can be treated, while uninfected people will be transferred to other detention centers.

Earlier this week, she visited the detention center to inspect its response system, but criticism hasn't subsided that she has failed to react fast enough to stem the spread at an earlier stage.

Critics say that she has been too preoccupied with a tug-of-war with Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over prosecution reform to pay enough attention to the health risks at the detention center. She recently offered to resign. (Yonhap)