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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 1)

All News 09:22 June 01, 2019

Boat tragedy
:Government needs manual on overseas accidents

Many people here have been startled by a sightseeing boat accident in Hungary that has caused Korean casualties. As of Friday afternoon, seven Koreans have died and 19 were still missing. Of the 35 people on board, 33 were reported to be Korean tourists

The accident has reminded many Koreans of the painful memories of the 2014 sinking of the ferry Sewol that led to the deaths of more than 300 passengers and crew. At the time, President Park Geun-hye was harshly criticized for not responding swiftly to the accident. She was continuously harassed by the media and political opponents for her mysterious whereabouts during the early hours of the accident. Park's response to the Sewol sinking aggravated public sentiment toward her administration prior to her impeachment amid a massive corruption scandal.

Some people have been comparing Moon's reaction to the river accident in Hungary to Park's response to the Sewol. Some criticized that it took a long time for Moon to be briefed about it after the accident took place. The accident should not be used politically to attack the Moon administration. Right now, the most important thing is to do everything possible to rescue those still unaccounted for.

So far, the Moon administration has moved quickly to deal with the accident. Moon was briefed by National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong and ordered a rescue team to be dispatched to Hungary. Moon also named Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha to lead a central taskforce to oversee the entire operation. She arrived in Hungary Friday afternoon to meet with Hungarian authorities

Sending the foreign minister reflects Moon's resolve to do all he can to make sure the rescue operation is properly managed. However, his decision leaves some questions. First, it is not certain whether the foreign minister is the most effective choice to lead such a taskforce even though the accident has taken place in another country. Given the nature of operations, it is more effective to send an official from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

Because the number of Korean tourists headed overseas is constantly rising, accidents have also been increasing as well. What will happen next time something like this happens? The foreign minister has a myriad of diplomatic challenges, including the denuclearization talks with North Korea. The foreign minister cannot leave the country every time similar situations occur. The question of equity may be raised with future accidents.

As overseas accidents involving Koreans are on the rise, the government should prepare a manual to deal with them. It is also important for the government to check on travel agencies to find out whether they taking sufficient measures to protect their customers.

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