President Park Geun-hye has decided today to postpone her state visit to the United States due to the spread of the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) cases in Korea. This was disclosed by Presidential Chief Secretary Kim Sung-woo at a press briefing at the Presidential Mansion of Cheong Wa Dae this morning (June 10).
Kim said that the government has been taking all possible measures to curb the further spread of the MERS and that she has been receiving the latest reports on the basis of real time.
This decision is welcomed by both the ruling and opposition camps as the spread of MERS cases has been considered due to the failure on the part of the government and the ruling camp in timelily dealing with the MERS cases in the early stage of its spread in Korea.
“The coming weekend is expected to be a peak and a turning point in the spread of the MERS cases,” Kim said, “and therefore the government is taking all possible steps to stem the spread of the cases through close cooperation and coordination between the government organizations and non-governmental experts.” Excerpts of the Chong Wa Dae announcement follow:
In spite of the efforts made by the government, the people are much worried about the MERS situation and therefore in order to prevent the further spread of the disease as soon as possible and insure the safety of the people, the President has decided to postpone her visit to the United States which had been slated for next week.
The President has been carrying out summit diplomacy with various important countries of the world under difficult conditions in order to revitalize the national economy and broaden the horizons of the Korean economy.
However, the President considers the health of the people as being the most important, and has decided to postpone the US visit and to continue her effort to lessen the worries of the people over the spread of MERS cases.
The President hopes that the people will join her efforts to override the current difficult situation.
On the postponement of the visit to the US, we took a prior consultation with the US authorities in advance of our decision, and reached an agreement that the President will make the visit at the earliest convenience of both the Republic of Korea and the United States.
Although the visit to the US was postponed, the President will continue to make efforts with the US to solve various problems on the agenda of discussions during her US visit, including management of the Korean peninsula, response to the change of the diplomatic and security environment of the Northeast Asian Region, economic cooperation between Korea and the US and strengthening of the global partnership of the two countries.
Criticisms against the government’s dealing with the situation came from the general public as well as from the opposition political camp. This situation had been driving the government and the ruling camp?as well as the President?to bay.
The main point of public criticisms was the suspected Jamjjami (suspicious relationship) between the government health authorities and the Samsung Medical Center (SMC) in Seoul that came in the form of hiding from the general public the list of MERS cases that had broken out at the SMC.
The government health authorities and Samsung had continued to conceal the list of parents and the news of the MERS outbreak until Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon declared on June 5 that the Seoul City would independently disclose the list of patients and take whatever measures that Seoul City considered to appropriately at the local government level with or without the blessings of the central government.
Park’s declaration was followed by Governor Nam Kyung-pil of the Gyeonggi Province on June 9, who declared that he would take similar actions at the discretion of his provincial government.
At last the government health authorities gave in, and disclosed a partial list of the MERS patients and increased their efforts to combat the MERS.
At this moment, predictions on the spread of MERS cases are split between one group who suspect that the situation will aggravate and another that forecast an optimistic development. However, they all agree that this weekend (June 6-7) will be a deciding time.