Exam day for MoonThe Moon Jae-in administration is facing a test of its capacity to address national disasters. Avian influenza (AI) virus has been detected at a poultry farm run by a local conglomerate in the southern part of the country where the nearby coastal region around Pohang is still dealing with the aftermath of the country’s second-biggest earthquake. A bird flu outbreak in the past mostly stemmed from slack supervision and control. The public is already worried about another outbreak. The new government has vowed to defend public safety and health. It must live up to its words.
So far it has done well. As soon as it found the strains of the highly pathogenic virus at a duck farm in Gochang, North Jeolla, the government went straight to work. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon held an emergency cabinet meeting and commanded all possible measures to contain the spread of the unwelcome winter visitor. It raised the alarm on AI to the highest “serious” level and ordered a temporary ban on movement from the area. In November of last year, 3,800 birds were buried because authorities let down their guard while the country was engrossed with presidential impeachment.
The spread of bird flu can ruin the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. The event already has low public interest. An epidemic could throw more cold water on the Games. Egg prices, which only recently stabilized following the pesticide scandal, could jump again. The prime minister must be at the command to ensure thorough quarantine actions. The central and local governments must work closely together with the farming community.
At the same time, authorities must speed up the salvage work after the earthquake. Over 1,000 people have lost their homes, 7,000 buildings have been damaged and 90 people have been injured. The damages have been bigger than the nation’s largest-ever earthquake in Gyeongju. The repairs must be finished before freezing weather arrives. Authorities must reexamine the disaster relief system. An elementary school that was closed after its pillars collapsed has been designated as a public shelter for evacuees. The government must revisit shelter establishments while revising its comprehensive quake relief manual.
The College Scholastic Ability Test, which has been pushed back a week due to the quake, must be administered meticulously. The education ministry set up 12 reserve test sites. But the scare of aftershocks remains. Authorities must prepare for various contingencies. The government must earn public confidence through its handling of the damages.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 21, Page 34