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Opposition heaps criticism on Moon, health minister

Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn of United Future Party stops by Seomun Market in virus-hit Daegu Thursday and comforts merchants. At the advice of his aides, Hwang on the right bows head his head instead of shaking hands with the merchant on the left. (Yonhap)
Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn of United Future Party stops by Seomun Market in virus-hit Daegu Thursday and comforts merchants. At the advice of his aides, Hwang on the right bows head his head instead of shaking hands with the merchant on the left. (Yonhap)

The conservative opposition on Thursday chastised the Moon Jae-in administration, saying the government’s “incompetence and negligence” is to blame for the coronavirus outbreak here.

“Running away from the responsibility and ignoring the experts’ advice is evidence of how the Moon administration is just unfit to govern,” Floor Leader Shim Jae-cheol of United Future Party said at a meeting of party leaders.

He urged Health Minister Park Neung-hoo to step down over his remarks that Koreans, not Chinese, were to blame in the country’s rapid spread of the COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China.

Shim denounced the minister for pinning the blame on Koreans, whereas he said the real culprit is the government that did not stop Chinese from entering the country and bringing the virus here.

The conservative bloc has been calling for a complete entry ban on all Chinese travelers since infections began skyrocketing in the neighboring country.

The Moon administration, however, imposed the restriction only on arrivals from Wuhan’s Hubei province.

After weeks of isolated cases traceable to China and other infected countries, Korea entered a new phase of local transmission centered largely on a religious sect in the city of Daegu.

Meanwhile, the party’s Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn visited the virus-hit city of Daegu on Thursday. 

Shortly after being briefed by a local hospital on the latest COVID-19 developments in the city, Hwang stopped by Seomun Market, a traditional local street market housing more than 4,000 shops, and consoled merchants there.

“The street is totally deserted here in Daegu. Who's to blame?” Hwang was quoted asking. “I know I'm one, because I failed to block whatever the consequences are of the Moon administration’s collective missteps.”

Closed since Tuesday for six days, the local market was one of the three largest markets in the country, and was shut down for its first time ever. The closure was a response to the spike in infections linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church in the area.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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