SEOUL– Prime Minister Han Duck-soo ordered the interior ministry Tuesday to double-check the country’s anti-missile evacuation and other emergency response systems amid heightened tension in the wake of a series of North Korean missile launches.
Han issued the order during a Cabinet meeting, saying there has been criticism of the government’s air raid alert system when a North Korean missile flew across the inter-Korean sea border toward Ulleung Island last week before crashing near South Korean waters.
The missile launch prompted the central government to issue an air raid siren, but the island’s residents were belatedly informed about what the situation was and how they responded.
Han ordered the interior ministry to “work closely with local governments to review measures on public action and response systems for emergency situations.”
“The relevant ministries should prepare first to prevent damage caused by North Korea’s provocations, safety accidents, and fires,” Han said.
With calls for accountability growing over the Oct. 29 Halloween crowd crush that killed at least 156 people, Han again apologized for the tragedy.
“I feel a great responsibility for not sufficiently protecting the lives and safety of people,” Han told the meeting.
The government will make its utmost efforts to identify the cause of the tragedy, hold those responsible to account and come up with measures to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, Han said.
Candlelight vigils were held in Seoul on Saturday to mourn the crowd crush victims, with participants holding signs reading that the tragedy “was preventable, the state was not there.”
Police have come under strong criticism for their inaction despite desperate emergency calls that warned of overcrowding hours before the incident took place in the Itaewon district in Yongsan Ward.
Asked by a lawmaker about the government’s responsibility and public anger over the crowd collapse, Han replied that police in Yongsan failed to properly deal with the crowd surge.
“The state was not there,” Han told a parliamentary committee meeting.
Source: Yonhap News Agency