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Controversy over naming of presidential disease control secretary

Controversy over naming of presidential disease control secretary

Posted April. 19, 2021 07:30,   

Updated April. 19, 2021 07:30


Controversy has flared up in the healthcare and political sectors over the instatement and appointment of presidential secretary for disease control and prevention. Some say that the position is unnecessary and redundant, while others say the appointment of Prof. Ki Mo-ran at the National Cancer Center is not appropriate.

Main opposition People’s Power Party lawmaker Yoon Hee-sook said in her Facebook post, “When a war (between countries) to secure vaccines was in full scale Presidential secretary for disease control and prevention Ki misguided ordinary people.” While admitting the need to instate presidential secretary for disease control and prevention, Rep. Yoon said, “‘Ki made remarks several times that securing vaccines was less important, which earned criticism from experts that she is covering the administration even by betraying her own area of academia.”

Hwang Gyu-hwan, deputy executive vice spokesman for the People’s Power Party, said, “Ki made appearance in Kim Eeo-joon’s News Factory talk show on TBS Radio, and said that the spread of Covid-19 pandemic was due to protest rallies on Liberation Day (August 15), revealing her biased opinion, which caused people to doubt about her qualification as an expert.” The main opposition party has also raised suspicion about “compensatory appointment” for Lee Jae-yeong, Ki’s husband and the chair of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea’s Yangsan A district chapter in South Gyeongsang Province.

Critics in the healthcare sector have also voiced the same line of criticism. “Since Prof. Ki has repeatedly made remarks justifying the government’s mistakes of failing to block people arriving from China on early days of the Covid-19 crisis, and failing to secure vaccine supply, the medical community found it was very problematic,” said Choi Dae-jip, chairman of the Korean Medical Association. “With both Covid-19 control and vaccine supply in crisis, the presidential office’s appointment of Prof. Ki makes us doubt whether the government has any commitment to overcome the crisis.”

In the meantime, some say there is need for an expert who can advise the president on disease control while others say that there is need for a process to build trust internally and externally to find a breakthrough to vaccine supply shortages, albeit belated. “Some watchers interpret the appointment as the presidential office’s gesture of distrust in and warning against the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency,” said a ranking official at the health authority. “The presidential office should undergo a process to rebuild trust based on the mindset that it will take full responsibility in gather opinions from different fields.”

Sung-Gyu Kim sunggyu@donga.com