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(3rd LD) Gov't doubles state aid for disaster relief

All News 18:08 August 12, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with President Moon's visit to Gurye, Cheonan in paras 10-14; ADDS photos)

SEOUL, Aug. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's government on Wednesday decided to double the state aid for disaster relief and recovery, as the unusually prolonged rainy season has wrecked havoc on houses, farm land and infrastructure nationwide.

The decision was made during a meeting among the government, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and Cheong Wa Dae at the National Assembly.

"In the case of a death, state support will be raised to 20 million won (US$16,880) from the current 10 million won," said DP spokesman Kang Hoon-sik during a briefing, adding a flood victim will get 2 million, up from the original 1 million won. The current disaster aid scheme was drawn up in 1995.

Discussion on a potential supplementary budget, which the ruling party toyed with, has been deferred to a later time, as the current budget is deemed sufficient to cover recovery efforts.

A house is destroyed by torrential rains in Namwon, North Jeolla Province, on Aug. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

"The central government has 3 trillion won in budget, with some in reserve, while provincial governments have around 2.4 trillion won," Kang elaborated. "So it is enough to cover 500 billion won, the estimated cost needed for recovery."

The government is working on swiftly expanding the special disaster areas by streamlining the bureaucratic process, he said, beyond the seven cities and counties designated last week.

The seven are Anseong of Gyeonggi Province; Cheorwon of Gangwon Province; Chungju, Jecheon and Eumseong of North Chungcheong Province; and Cheonan and Asan of South Chungcheong Province.

"Damage inspections have been launched in Gwangju, North Jeolla Province and South Gyeongsang Province," he said, adding the results will be made within this week.

Special disaster areas get state support that can cover up to 80 percent of the expenditures needed for damage recovery. Flood victims in the areas receive state aid for livelihood costs and reductions in utility bills, health insurance premiums and other public charges, as well as exemptions from reserve forces training and other military duties.

President Moon Jae-in (R) talks with merchants at Hwagae Market in Hadong, South Gyeongsang Province, which suffered damage caused by heavy rains, on Aug. 12, 2020. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (R) looks around a river bank and road, devastated by torrential rains, in Gurye, South Jeolla Province on Aug. 12, 2020. (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in visited three southern areas battered by torrential rains to check flood damages and console local residents. He used the presidential KTX bullet train, code-named Train One, for several hours of visits to Hadong, South Gyeongsang Province, Gurye, South Jeolla Province, and Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province.

On his way to Hadong, the first destination, he received a 45-minute briefing on recovery work and efforts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in areas damaged by floods, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok.

Moon instructed related officials to do their best to swiftly designate affected regions as special disaster zones eligible for financial assistance, Kang said.

Moon inspected devastated sites and met with people there.

The president's travel distance during the day reached 767 kilometers, Kang added.

President Moon Jae-in (L) inspects a wrecked farm in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, along with other officials on Aug. 12, 2020. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, the government plans to start working on river maintenance to alleviate flooding and help land drainage.

Record-setting downpours have left 42 people killed or missing. More than 7,200 people have been displaced.

President Moon Jae-in (L, back) receives a briefing on flood damage and recovery work aboard the presidential bullet train on Aug. 12, 2020. (Yonhap)



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