Editorial on Sewol sinking – ‘It’s only too easy for ROK President Park to point her finger at “murderous acts”’ [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

The Hankyoreh has been publishing a succession of harshly-critical editorials about anti-democratic south Korean President Park in light of governmental incompetence regarding the Sewol sinking. Criticism is totally deserved; but there also is a air of opportunism here, since the Hankyoreh correlates with the south Korean neoliberal opposition party which has been marginalized by Park’s dirty political tricks that secured her the Presidency. There is also an extremely unsavory ‘colonized’ tendency in these editorials to point at the US government and/or Obama as a model for how to deal with disasters. Anybody familiar with 9/11 and its aftermath, Hurricane Katrina, or the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico can only be shocked reading this. And then there’s the whole question of the direct damage done to the Korean peninsula and its people by the US government during the “Korean War”, and in the ongoing occupation since. – Zuo Shou

April 22, 2014

President Park Geun-hye made a statement yesterday describing the abandonment of the sinking Sewol ferry by its captain and a few of its crew members as a “murderous act.” She also pointed the finger at government officials, who she said would be “sternly held accountable.” Her wording was strong, and focused entirely on punishment and blame. Yet somehow they seemed to ring hollow. It was impossible to shake the sense that her focus was on the wrong place.

The sinking of the Sewol was not the only disaster last week. We also saw massive holes in the government’s disaster response system and crisis management capabilities. The initial response fell well short of what was needed, and the relevant agencies failed to cooperate; the disaster response manuals shut down at a pivotal moment. The government was frantic when it needed to be composed, inconsistent when it needed to be clear. The Blue House was no exception. Yet here the President is blasting the captain and blaming the civil servants as though it has nothing to do with her.

Park emphasized the importance of a “powerful disaster response control tower” and called for “reflection on the government’s crisis response system and initial measures.” But one gets the sense that the reflection really needs to start at the Blue House itself. As when campaigning for president, Park pledged to build an “integrated system with unified disaster management duties,” a plan that was further developed after she took office when control tower functions were assigned to a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters under the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. That system has failed to work properly, as the events of the past few days have made clear. Instead of rushing to point fingers and criticize, the President’s first order of business should be fixing the system.

During the Roh Moo-hyun administration (2003-08), the Blue House’s National Security Council was also tasked with serving as a crisis management control tower for disaster situations. A state-of-the-art situation room was set up in an underground bunker at the Blue House, with an electronic situation board providing a clear picture of the situation on the ground based on information provided in real time by the leading government agencies. It was a system that allowed for a swift and systematic response to any disaster. But the NSC lost this role when the Lee Myung-bak administration took over and set about erasing signs that Roh had ever been there; under the Park administration, it has yet to be restored. Is it too much of a stretch to think those “golden 93 minutes” in the disaster’s initial stages might not have been helplessly wasted if the Blue House had this kind of system in place? It is a troubling thought…

Full editorial link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/633991.html

Original editorial title: ‘It’s only too easy to Park to point her finger at “murderous acts”’
See also other Hankyoreh editorial/articles:

[Editorial] “South Korea has rulers, but no leaders” (April 25, 2014) – http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/634522.html

“Sewol victims’ families’ anger comes to boiling point” (April 26, 2014) – http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/634632.html
^^^ LOVE THIS ONE for the photo of a hurled water bottle at the moment it contacts the head of the Prime Minister

[Editorial] “After Sewol sinking, President should fall on her own sword” (April 28, 2014) – http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/634836.html

[Editorial] ‘What we really need is a “remodeling of the President”’ (April 30, 2014) – http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/635155.html

[Editorial] “The Blue House’s shameful actions” (May 1, 2014) – http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/635330.html


South Korean prime minister resigns over ferry disaster [World Socialist Website] – https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/04/28/kore-a28.html


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