Kim Sung-soo Kim, professor of law at Yonsei University, in The Seoul Shinmun Daily (October 27, 2020)
We live in a time of climate abnormality. But this is the new normal. According to the United Nations, water management will account for as much as 90 percent of successful adaption to climate change. The International Water Association (ISA) also found that as much as 20 percent of carbon emissions would depend on water management policies. Korean policymakers must pay urgent attention to this.
First, the government must promptly put together a unified water management body. Currently, flood control is separately managed by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, depending on the body of water and the function. This is not an effective structure to address a crisis such as rapid flooding.
Second, there must be proactive investment made in water management. The latest budget for 2020 shows a stark contrast between 14 trillion won (US$12.4 billion) allocated for road and railway and the 1 trillion (US$887 million) for water management. Also, although 98.4 percent of flooding occurs in the countryside, smaller counties have difficulty securing funds. The central government must step up and provide support.
Third, there needs to be legal and financial support to establish a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions policy. The European Union has been a leader in this. Meanwhile, the Korean government has started talks on a ‘”Korean New Deal” of economic, environmental and social reforms.
There is an old saying that the “water is the greatest good because it helps everyone”. The times call for immediate action and collaboration between countries, states and generations. Pursuing a water-management strategy would be a critical first step in the right direction.