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Officials under fire for lack of disaster readiness

The local and central governments have come under fire for the nation’s lack of disaster readiness made apparent by the floods that ravaged the country this July.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon has also drawn criticism for his decision to continue with the already highly controversial plebiscite vote on free school lunches as scheduled despite the recent crisis.

“As someone who should be managing flooded areas, he is hanging on a thread by holding the plebiscite votes on free school lunches,” said Rep. Jang Se-hwan of the Democratic Party during a public administration and safety committee meeting.

There has also been public and political outcry that Seoul was unable to procure enough relief funds. These funds have yet to be properly distributed almost two weeks after residents were displaced by floods and landslides.

“The city spends hundreds of billions of won on Seoul’s design but when they say they are going to allocate 500 billion won for the next 10 years for flood preventative measures, they claim they have no money,” said Rep. Baek Won-woo of the opposition party.

“The total amount of Seoul’s relief fund only amounts tor 300 billion won, the city’s efforts are simply to save face.”

According to the Association for Korea Disaster Relief on Friday, some 31.4 billion won in relief funds were amassed through the media, less than half the amount collected in the aftermath of Typhoon Ewiniar in 2006, which left 600 homes flooded and 62 dead.

Corporate donations made up the vast majority of funds with private donations only making up 200 million won.

And the lower-than-anticipated funds were slow in making their way to the appropriate people in need. As of Thursday, nearly 60 percent of the allotted relief funds have yet to be distributed, according to the city officials.

“I heard that other areas are already finished with their restoration work, but we haven’t received any help and we’re still shoveling mud and water,” one flood victim posted online.

But ruling party officials said that although more could have been done theoretically, the root cause of the chaos was simply natural.

“The first cause is the massive amounts of rain, but there were enough signs to have prepared measures, and also, they were unable to finish construction on Mount Woomyeon by July,” said Minister of Public Administration and Safety Maeng Hyung-kyu.

Hearing the public’s cries for help, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has decided to defer property tax for those hit hardest by the torrential rains and landslides and offer extensions for most others. The capital has also stepped up efforts to hand out relief funds, asking victims to contact either neighborhood or district officials to start the process.

Oh promised the capital’s utmost efforts to increase the amount of rainfall the sewage and drainage system can handle by a third.

By Robert Lee (
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Korea Herald daum