&#91EDITORIALS&#93The disaster zone problem

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93The disaster zone problem

Many areas affected by Typhoon Maemi were designated special disaster relief zones. That includes much of the nation, as 14 cities and provinces, 156 smaller cities, counties and districts and 1,657 smaller communities, with the exception of Seoul and Incheon, were named.
This sweeping designation is problematic. First, the zones were named without a complete assessment of the damage. Such a broad designation means that intensive help for the regions that need it most cannot take place. Lawmakers bear some responsibility for this situation. They fought to include their electoral districts regardless of the extent of damage. The same thing happened last year with Typhoon Rusa.
The damage assessment was hastily done. The central disaster relief headquarters, which initially set out to conduct a 15-day assessment, cut it down to three days at the lawmakers’ urging. They hurriedly convened a disaster relief committee meeting two days ago and the designation came yesterday. It is mind-boggling to see them rush through this important process, which is critical to finding out the reason for the enormous damage and ensuring that it does not happen again.
In the United States, the government usually takes 180 days to assess the damage when a disaster of a similar magnitude occurs.
Another problem is that there is not much transparency in how the local governments spend the recovery funds. It was pointed out last year that local government heads gave contracts to certain businesses, without public bidding. Most of the companies chosen last year were small ones and often did shoddy work. We cannot totally rule out a link of corruption. It is no coincidence that despite having spent 7.1 trillion won to repair damage from Typhoon Rusa last year, several areas in North Gyeongsang and Gangwon provinces were damaged again by Typhoon Maemi.
The authorities should be careful in allocating recovery funds and assure that the money is spent properly. The designation of special disaster zones that drain taxpayers’ money and allow a recurrence of a disaster is meaningless.
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