Politicization of tragedy is not right

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Politicization of tragedy is not right

The official week-long mourning period over the deadly Itaewon crowd crush has ended. Funeral procedures for the victims are winding up. The country must move toward a thorough investigation of who’s responsible for the tragedy and devise effective systems to prevent such disasters in the future.

President Yoon Suk-yeol participated in religious events organized by Buddhist temples and Christian churches to pay condolences for the 156 deaths from the disaster. In a speech at a memorial by the Chogye order of Korean Buddhism, Yoon apologized for the tragedy followed by another at a similar event organized by an association of Protestant churches.

Much needs to be overseen — the police response, government and district office actions, legal overhaul, and civilian behaviors. Despite multiple deadly disasters, we have come to realize a safe society does not come about just through punishing several people and changing a few laws. A hasty conclusion cannot guarantee a reliable safety system. Such times call for cool head as well as warm hearts.

But political circles are engrossed in a repulsive blame game with some arguing such a disaster could not have happened under former president Moon Jae-in. A professor put the blame on the denial of responsibility for a lack of leadership at times of crisis among government ministers, police commanders and local government heads.

The government and the People Power Party (PPP) should take the initial responsibility. The president, cabinet ministers, senior government officials, and PPP lawmakers would not have invited such controversy if they had acted responsibly. The interior and safety minister’s casual comment and the lethargic police leadership were all disappointing. PPP Rep. Yoo Sang-bum, a former prosecutor, offered little help by defending the police and government officials by saying that it is hard to punish them because they are not liable for what happened in festivities that do not have specific organizers.

The majority Democratic Party also did not behave honorably. It refrained from political attacks in the earlier stages. But now, some members are even calling for a presidential impeachment. Although they canceled it later, DP members had planned a candlelight vigil against the president and ruling power. But they must share the blame in any slackness in the security system, as they had been the governing power just six months ago.

We should have learned enough from the consequences of politicizing disasters from the Sewol ferry tragedy. The investigations were renewed nine times at a cost of huge budget each year. But the results only deepened an ideological conflict and did not help contain the rise in accidents at sea. We must not repeat the same mistakes.
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