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South Korea president under fire for coronavirus response

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is under criticism following the rapid spread of the new strain of coronavirus in his country. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is under criticism following the rapid spread of the new strain of coronavirus in his country. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in is taking heat from the political opposition for the escalating number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country, the largest number of reported cases in the world outside China, where the outbreak began in December.

Members of the main opposition conservatives in the United Future Party condemned the administration for "mishandling" the outbreak on Wednesday, the same day total confirmed cases reached 1,261, Yonhap reported.

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Party leader Hwang Kyo-ahn told reporters the government was making a mistake by not banning incoming travelers from China.

"People who could further spread the disease must be blocked," Hwang said.

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Opposition politicians also condemned the ruling Democratic Party for proposing a shutdown of North Gyeongbuk Province and Daegu, the central South Korean city where Shincheonji, a religious organization popularly referred to as a cult, is being blamed for spreading COVID-19 among hundreds of unsuspecting residents.

The rising number of international bans against travelers from South Korea was also cited as a reason for the opposition's disapproval of the government.

Yoon Sang-hyun, a lawmaker with the United Future Party, blamed the Moon administration for tarnishing Korea's image on the international stage.

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In a Facebook post, Yoon said "Koreans" are being equated with "Corona," an abbreviation for the virus. More than 20 countries around the world are imposing some form of ban against South Korean travelers, Yoon said.

The Moon administration has declined to ban travelers from China despite rising evidence people without symptoms can spread COVID-19, or via asymptomatic transmission.

Protests against the government have grown in the wake of the outbreak, which has so far been connected to 12 deaths in Korea.

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South Korea is cracking down on the protests, deeming them unsafe. Jun Kwang-hoon, chief of the Christian Council of Korea, has been arrested for holding protests, News 1 reported Wednesday.

Jun, who was been critical of Moon before the outbreak, is appealing the court decision, according to the report.

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