[Editorial] Protect the people

By Korea Herald

Government must increase anthrax vaccine stock, prepare public for emergencies

Published : Dec 26, 2017 - 17:45
Updated : Dec 26, 2017 - 17:45

Cheong Wa Dae’s purchase of anthrax vaccines for the president and its staff with barely 1,000 vaccines for the rest of the population has come under public criticism. The government must stock up on anthrax vaccines sufficiently. Considering a mounting risk of military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, it should also take steps to prepare the people against North Korean missile threats.

The Presidential Security Service secured 350 doses of anthrax vaccines for president and Cheong Wa Dae staff workers on Nov. 2. It asked the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in July to import vaccines in preparation for anthrax terror attack on Cheong Wa Dae. Anthrax is an infection caused by Bacillus anthracis bacteria, and according to a 2016 report by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, North Korea has 13 types of pathogens that can be weaponized such as anthrax and clostridium botulinum.

No doubt, Cheong Wa Dae as a control tower of the country should be protected at all time. Its importation of anthrax vaccines is unquestionable. It has to be well prepared for every possible North Korean attack. Recently, a Japanese newspaper reported the North Korean regime was testing loading anthrax onto intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. The North will likely attack the South if the US strikes the communist state to disable its near-completed nuclear and missile programs.

Citizens have posted accusations and petitions on the Cheong Wa Dae website, asking who was vaccinated and demanding an increase in vaccine stockpiles for the whole nation. Cheong Wa Dae explained it had purchased the vaccines for 350 people not for vaccination but for treatment along with antibiotics and that they are stored in an army hospital. It added that the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had imported anthrax vaccines for 1,000 people separately from Cheong Wa Dae. They are also stored in an undisclosed place and will be used to treat antiterror officers and ordinary citizens when an emergency happens. But the population exceeds 50 million. The inventory is far too low. People cannot but feel resentment and anxiety.

Cheong Wa Dae said that the vaccine purchase was planned by the former administration in early 2016 and reflected in its 2017 budget. But it cannot shrug it off as an action of the past government. It needs to ponder over related petitions. Despite escalating tension on the peninsula, the Moon administration has no plan to conduct evacuation drills against North Korean missile threats, by reason of their risk of giving the public an unnecessary anxiety. Yet Cheong Wa Dae has secured anthrax vaccines for its staff and the president. In this situation, people are liable to feel betrayed.

The reason why evacuation drills are not conducted is less than convincing, considering evacuation exercises to brace for possible nuclear attacks were conducted early this month in Hawaii. In Guam, the Homeland Security Department issued a fact sheet to help residents prepare for imminent missile threats from North Korea. Japan is considering evacuation drills in Tokyo next year. But South Korea is sitting on its hands.

The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Friday for its recent ICBM test. The North Korean regime has declared the UN sanctions an “act of war,” escalating an already tense relationship between the US and the North. US Defense Secretary James Mattis urged American soldiers to be ready for anything, saying that “storm clouds are gathering” over the Korean Peninsula.

No one wants war, but in a precarious situation, it is unwise to turn a blind eye to the risk of armed conflicts, no matter how small it is. Doubts are beginning to open up over how well Cheong Wa Dae can respond to an actual emergency, when it stocks such small amounts of its anthrax vaccines while doing so little to prepare the public.


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