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Think twice before you speak

Feb 25,2020
Since the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Daegu and North Gyeongsang started to spike last week, President Moon Jae-in has performed pretty disappointingly. Even as the first death was reported on Feb. 20, photos of the president laughing alongside Oscar-winning Director Bong Joon-ho and the cast of “Parasite” were being splashed all over the media.

Congratulating the award-winning film crew is understandable. But given the grave circumstances, the Blue House should have kept the gloating more private if it cared about the bereaved families and scared citizens of Daegu and North Gyeongsang.

It was also inappropriate for the president to specifically mention the Shincheonji church as the culprit of the spread. The fault lies more on the government for failing to block the entry of Chinese citizens at an early stage. The zealous nature of the religious sect was part of the problem, but not the essence.

Finding a scapegoat can worsen matters. The government ignored repeated warnings from medical experts and media, and blamed them for triggering anxiety and terror among the public. It even accused them of spreading fake news. On Feb. 17, the president said some media coverage was exaggerating the situation to spur an unnecessary fear. The ruling front was all self-congratulatory, with Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon praising the government for better coping with the situation than the 2015 Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak. Ruling party floor-leader Lee In-young claimed the government was winning the battle against the virus.

Civilian petitions on the Blue House website calling for an entry ban of Chinese citizens has exceeded 760,000. Civilians cannot understand why the government was not enforcing an outright ban on Chinese when even North Korea and Russia have sealed their borders against Chinese. The president said the country should consider “Chinese woes as ours.”

Moon made a grave mistake of declaring that the battle with the virus would soon be over. When he was the head of the opposition party, he accused the government of being the source of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) disaster in 2015 because its disconnection and incompetence had put the people in a greater danger. The number of the new virus infections already hovers over 800 — far more than 186 of MERS cases. The president must look back at his past warning.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 24, Page 30