(2nd LD) Moon says S. Korea has shown its dignity by embracing Afghan evacuees
(ATTN: UPDATES with Moon's phone call with ambassador to Afghanistan in last 5 paras)
SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in said Monday that South Korea's successful operation to evacuate Afghan people last week is expected to serve as a chance to further enhance its global stature.
In the emergency move, codenamed Operation Miracle, South Korea brought nearly 400 Afghans fleeing the Taliban-controlled nation to its territory on its military aircraft. They have been allowed to stay here with legal status on par with that of a refugee.
It is unprecedented in South Korea's diplomatic history to have transported such a large number of foreigners out of a conflict-stricken area and let them settle on its soil, he noted.
"The success of the transfer operation and the open and inclusive stance of our people are being highly recognized by the international community," Moon said during his weekly meeting with senior Cheong Wa Dae aides.
He expressed hope that it will serve as an opportunity for South Korea to develop as a country "with dignity" that helps the people of other countries in need and embraces them as an advanced nation in terms of human rights.
He pledged comprehensive support measures for the evacuees, especially education for children, so that they can adapt easily to their new lives here.
Moon also condemned the latest deadly Kabul airport attacks and delivered a message of condolences to victims.
"The government strongly condemns the inhumane crime that cannot be tolerated for any reason," he stated. "It will continue to work with the international community to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan."
Regarding the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the president said the government will provide the people in South Korea with "booster doses" in stages "before it's too late" starting with priority groups with high-risk conditions, including the elderly and medical and disease control workers.
He reassured the public that 70 percent of the 52 million population would be able to receive at least the first dose before the Sept. 21 Chuseok holiday and the second one by the end of October.
Later in the day, Moon spoke over the phone with South Korean Ambassador to Afghanistan Choi Tae-ho.
He praised Choi and other embassy officials for having played a role in the evacuation of the Afghans as well as the temporary closure of the embassy and the departure of a South Korean national there, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Kyung-mee. Choi and other diplomatic staff have been evacuated to Qatar.
Moon said that he had "worries" about various elements, including those related to security and safety, when he received the first briefing in early August on the plan to transport the Afghans, with the local situations changing rapidly.
Moon added he approved it, however, in the belief that it should be done as a matter of course for those who helped South Korea's local embassy operation, provincial reconstruction team efforts and other activities, Park said.
The president said, in particular, close cooperation with the United States was of importance in the related process.
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