[EDITORIALS]Clear skies and soggy roadsThe Korea Meteorological Administration formally announced that the rainy season, which started on June 14, officially came to an end two days ago. It lasted two weeks longer than the average monsoon season, with precipitation levels reaching record highs. The damage was also substantial: In human casualties alone, over 50 people have been declared dead or missing. Considering the sheer amount of rain that has fallen on the peninsula, however, we could have expected far worse.
The damage caused by this year’s torrential monsoon season should serve as a wakeup call to re-evaluate disaster prevention systems as a whole and to create an entirely new framework if necessary.
First, we need to bring attention to the fact that the Seoul metropolitan area emerged from the rains nearly unscathed. This is because the multipurpose dams along the Han River and its tributaries have been doing their jobs. Experts, however, agree that more dams need to be built. They emphasize that the area around the South Han River in particular is far too large to be controlled by a single dam, the Chungju Dam. The government needs to go beyond simply appeasing environmental groups, and must, with the clear goal of eradicating floods within the next century, focus on building more of these crucial dams.
Last year’s rains caused traffic jams on all the main roads connecting the eastern and western parts of Gangwon province, and this year, the Gyeongbu expressway, the artery of the Korean economy, was partially submerged. These are serious problems that must be urgently addressed.
Safety standards for constructing new roads must be strictly enforced, and the government must also examine roads to reassess their capacity for dealing with such natural disasters. The steep banks of partially demolished mountains and hills are especially vulnerable to landslides, so a comprehensive inspection needs to take place.
Weather forecasts also have much room for improvement. Faulty weather forecasts did not cause any major problems this year, but the late forecasts were widely criticized and referred to as “real-time weather reports.”
The meteorological forecast system must undergo a complete overhaul, even if it means increasing equipment and manpower. Information-sharing with surrounding countries, such as North Korea and China, could prove extremely useful, as it did during the yellow dust season.
Another major problem is the chronically indifferent attitude toward safety that most of the Korean public has. This absence of safety awareness is why most warnings go largely unnoticed. Such attitudes must change, not through leaving it as a matter of personal choice, but using public power as enforcement, if necessary.