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31 July


The mayor of Sokcho has found himself at the center of a scandal due to the forest fires

When the fire engulfing the region, he celebrate his wife's 60th birthday

Photo: Yonhap

/NOVOSTIVL/ The mayor of Sokcho, one of the areas worst affected by last week's wildfires in Gangwon Province, has found himself at the center of a controversy due to his absence from duty at the time of the blaze. This article appeared in The Korea Times.

The forest fires ― the worst the country has seen since 2005 ― broke out on Thursday night in the mountainous county of Goseong and quickly spread to neighboring towns and cities, including Sokcho, with more than 4,000 people being evacuated from their homes.

While the fire was engulfing the region, Mayor Kim Cheol-su was vacationing on Jeju Island to celebrate his wife's 60th birthday. Kim and his family flew to the resort island the morning before the start of the blaze.

Some critics said it was not a proper decision for a local governor to go on a family trip when the nation was going all-out against a forest fire, while others said it did not make sense that it took 15 hours for the mayor to travel from Jeju to Sokcho.

"Public officials have to take the responsibility for the consequences."

However, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) defended the mayor, saying he should not be criticized for the sake of criticism.