Inadequate Prevention of Forest Fires

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Inadequate Prevention of Forest Fires

The forest fires that broke out in Youngdong area resulted in the greatest loss from forest fires in Korean history, and at the same time they indicate poor official management of natural disasters.

Without doubt, these disasters came with prior warnings. Following dry weather alerts, small forest fires were reported to have broken out, and in the end, a massive forest fire broke out in Kosong. Despite these fires, the authorities could not prevent additional forest fires in Samchok and Kangnung, which means that they did not make any substatial preparations to prevent further natural disasters.

The sight of a natural disaster is reportedly very similar to a battle. Residents, who were sleeping, have to be evacuated without a moment to take necessities, people living on the coast have to escape by boat because their village was surrounded by fire, roads were barricated, and nuclear power plants had operation halted due to electric wires being cut. Following these events, we can not help but to ask what has the government done so far?

We understand that it is impossible to prevent all natural disasters, and sometimes even extinguishing a forest fire seems so very difficult, but the government has a glaring weakness in that it gives prioirty to restoration and aid following a catastrophic event rather than its prevention.

The forest fire that broke out did so after repeated warnings. This means that the public organization, which should have prevented the fires, do not function efficiently. It is a serious point that the cooperation and roles alloted to the central and local governments are not what they used to be.

Before, local governors where all assigned, and so if a fire started in their district they would be fired and so they were much more careful in their administration. Now local governors are elected. If a fire starts the governors just have to show that they care and help the people after the fire and they may be re-elected. This along with governors preoccupation with elections has resulted in the degradation of preventative organizations and bodies.

The protection of lives and property is a more important duty of governors than to impove administrative services or to develop local areas. It is regrettable that the negligence of the concerned authorities has caused such great and severe loss to residents with nothing substantially changed.

As we well know, forests are public propoerty with immeasurable environmental and economic value. Therefore, the local autonomous govenrments should battle against forest fires in the spring and fall. Local governors should show strong leadership in order to protect the residents' rights to live and protect their property.

by Lee Chan-ho

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