Choo must take responsibility

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Choo must take responsibility

The photo with a hand stretched out of a prison window with “SOS” written on it from the Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul, where Covid-19 patients were segregated or crammed into one room, reminded me of the desperate call for help from drowning students of the Sewol ferry off the southwest coast six years ago. The tragic sight from the detention center can hardly come from a country that has been priding itself as a model country in controlling the spread of Covid-19.

After an inmate tested positive for the first time on Nov. 27, the first death from Dongbu Detention Center was reported on Dec. 29. As many as 792 have been infected as of Thursday. A prison is as vulnerable to the virus spread at a military camp. The high-rise detention facility of Dongbu is known to be crammed with 10 inmates per room.

It was found that before the first case, masks had not been supplied. A comprehensive test only took place three weeks after the first case. Inmates complained that the spread worsened because the prison went on with the routine of room-rotating every 100 days. Therefore, the crisis was man-made.

Detention centers fall under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry. The virus outbreak at the detention coincided with the time when Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae was engaged in a relentless campaign to oust Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to prevent him from digging up corruption concerning the government. While the minister — who has recently been replaced with a judge-turned-lawmaker — was entirely preoccupied with a personal vendetta against the top prosecutor. To add, the Justice Ministry neglected its primary role of overseeing the execution of the law and order and safety of its people.

Minisiter Choo lambasted Yoon on a Facebook post over the last month, but she did not mention even a single word on the detention center crisis. She briefly stopped by the center on Dec. 29 and instead devoted more time to writing up a new posting on social media critical of the top prosecutor.

The alarming spread of the novel virus in the detention center crisis resulted from the Moon Jae-in administration’s negligence. The affair must be thoroughly investigated and actions must be taken against those in charge. Even after Choo resigned, she must take responsibility for the crisis at the detention center.
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