Minimize the damageThe longest-ever rainy season has taken a heavy toll on human lives and properties. More losses are likely as a typhoon is arriving on Korean shores Monday. Authorities must do their utmost to minimize damages and at the same time devise more fundamental measures to address worsening natural disasters.
Rain has soaked the resort island of Jeju for 49 days, the lengthiest rainy season on record. The wet season this summer in the central region has also lasted 48 days until Monday, closing on the record-long 49 days in 2013. Records are likely to be broken in the capital and Gangwon as rain is forecast throughout this week.
The human toll has already reached 50, the highest since 2011. Damages in the early stages were from heavy rainfall, such as the inundation of underground waterways that were still under construction. But the trend has worsened due to a prolonged rainfall. River banks and hills gave way. The lengthy downpour and drenched soil brought down natural and artificial structures.
The monsoonal front usually weakens and turns northbound in late July due to high pressure from the North Pacific. This year, cold air in the north has encircled the peninsula to keep the monsoon front locked over Korea. Powerful cold air has been the cause of the lengthy rainy days. The unusual trend is a result of global warming that has raised the mercury in the Arctic to twice that of normal levels. Global warming will worsen over the years.
Streams, riverbanks, mountainous areas, as well as urban buildings and waterway systems should be reexamined and restructured to weather natural disasters. They should be built to withstand the worst rain in a century. More radical measures must be taken.
The case of Seomjin River, whose flooding inundated villages and towns in South Jeolla over the weekend, underscored the importance of strong river dykes. Riverbanks should be rechecked and strengthened as renovation work on dykes and dams has stopped or been cancelled amid controversy over the four river projects of former President Lee Myung-bak.
Landslides pose a danger to villages close to mountains under development. The country has seen 667 landslides this month. All 81 local governments have been warned to prevent landslides. Eight cases happened in mountains that were dug up to make way for solar panels. Development projects must be reexamined to be ready for the worst-case disaster.