|President Yoon Suk-yeol talks with a shopper at a supermarket in Yangjae-dong, Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap|
Yoon calls for fast recovery from heavy rains, battles inflation
By Nam Hyun-woo
President Yoon Suk-yeol has doubled his efforts to revive the economy as the nation, already struggling with soaring prices, begins the cleanup following flooding that ripped through Seoul and its suburbs displacing hundreds of citizens. His Thursday schedule included a meeting with Cabinet ministers of related ministries and on-site visits to inspect sites damaged by the torrential rain.
Yoon presided over an emergency economic measures meeting at a supermarket in Yangjae-dong, Seoul, Thursday, and urged Cabinet ministers to step up their efforts to draw up measures that can help the nation recover from the damage caused by the record rainfall.
"The top priority is repairing the damage and providing aid to those affected," he said. "By fully utilizing the government's capabilities, the government should be able to compensate damages and casualties, as well as offering assists to those in need, before the Chuseok holidays begin."
This year's Chuseok harvest holidays are from Sept. 9 to 12.
Yoon's comments came after he held a series of meetings with ministers and presidential secretaries throughout this week to respond to the record downpour that killed 11 people ― six in Seoul, three in Gyeonggi Province and two in Gangwon Province. Eight people remain missing and 982 are displaced as of Thursday morning.
After visiting sites damaged by the downpour and meeting victims on Tuesday and Wednesday, the president apologized to the nation on Wednesday for the damages inflicted, although the heavy rain was not something he could control. It was the first time the president made an apology since he was inaugurated.
"We need to concentrate all our efforts on recovering from the flood-driven damages, so the nation can go back to normal," Yoon said during Thursday's meeting.
During the meeting, Yoon also underscored the government's efforts to tame consumer price hikes before the holidays begin.
"We need to contain the price hikes before the holidays so that people can actually feel the impact of the policies," Yoon said, adding "although the (economic) situation is difficult."
According to the government, the average price of the top 20 necessities that are sold most during Chuseok at the end of July rose 7.1 percent from the average prices of those items in the three weeks before last year's Chuseok holidays ― Sept. 18 to 22.
The government said it will increase the supply of the highest in-demand products and encourage retailers to sell them at lower prices to meet the goal of containing the prices of the top 20 items to that of last year.
|President Yoon Suk-yeol visits an apartment complex in Dongjak District, Seoul, Wednesday, where a retaining wall collapsed due to heavy rainfall throughout this week. Courtesy of presidential office|
Throughout this week, Yoon has been concentrating his efforts on addressing people's livelihoods, in recognition that inflation and difficulties stemming from the heavy rainfall may further aggravate public sentiment regarding his administration.
Latest polls show Yoon's job approval ratings have fallen to the abysmal 20-percent range, threatening his control over state affairs. The ratings appear to reflect public concerns over the economy, controversies surrounding the presidential office and endless factional conflicts within the ruling party.
Against this backdrop, this week's heavy rainfall is feared to add more inflationary pressure on agricultural products, which will pose negative impacts on the public sentiment during the holidays that may result in a further dive in Yoon's job approval ratings.
"As the president underscores, the top priority is relieving difficulties of the public," an official at the presidential office said. "We will focus on reviving the economy to prevent vulnerable social groups from suffering additional damages."