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Politicians dash to areas wrecked by downpour; Yoon’s Ukraine trip hit by oppositionBy Kim Arin
Published : July 17, 2023 - 18:20
South Korean parties on both sides of the aisle on Monday headed to regions that have been hit the hardest by the lethal floods, taking a respite from the usual National Assembly duties in Seoul.
Ruling People Power Party leader Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, who returned from about a weeklong US trip on Sunday, met with survivors in North and South Chungcheong provinces where the damage from the monsoon rains was most severe. He then honored victims who died after being trapped in a flooded tunnel in Osong, a North Chungcheong Province city, near the government complex.
Speaking to reporters, Kim called for holding accountable senior officials in the government for “any failures to take safety steps and respond in time.” He said the ruling party was “no less to blame” in the disaster that “could have been prevented, with the proper preemptive measures.”
He thanked first responders and other personnel for undertaking search and rescue missions for the second consecutive day.
Separately, the People Power Party's floor leader Rep. Yun Jae-ok requested all party members to refrain from traveling abroad, and said party members will participate in volunteer work to assist in the restoration efforts in the areas affected by the disaster.
A day earlier, Rep. Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party of Korea was in North Chungcheong Province and visited temporary shelters for residents displaced by the storms. He urged swift action from the government to locate the missing and minimize further damage in vulnerable areas.
Lee and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership mounted an attack against President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday, saying he “neglected his duty to protect the lives and safety of the people” by not being “present at a time of national disaster.”
In a meeting of the party leadership Monday, floor leader Rep. Park Kwang-on said the president’s absence was “glaring” at a time when heavy rain and flooding have led to “dozens of deaths” over the weekend in the country.
At a conference held jointly with fellow Democratic Party lawmakers on the same day, Rep. Youn Kun-young, who served as a senior secretary to former President Moon Jae-in, said Yoon needed to be in “South Korea, at the scene of flood damage, not Ukraine.”
“President Yoon made a surprise appearance in Ukraine as a devastating disaster swept the country, a move that could jeopardize the country’s security,” he said. “The president extended his trip and chose to visit Ukraine, when flooding and landslides were killing and displacing several (people) across our home country.”
Rep. Kim Eui-kyeom, another Democratic Party lawmaker who also served in Moon’s presidential office, said the president stopping by Ukraine “risked bringing the embers of the war in Ukraine to South Korea.”
“Because of the president’s words and actions, the guns of Russia and China could now be pointing at us,” he said.
On the opposition’s criticisms, the ruling party’s chief spokesperson, Rep. Yoo Sang-bum, said the president’s visit to Ukraine was “a significant act of solidarity with countries sharing same values as us.”
“This isn’t an either-or situation. The ruling party will continue to work with the government to respond to the rainstorms and prevent any potential further damage,” he said.
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