A missile which fell to the ground in a military airfield set off a fire in the eastern coastal city of Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The missile crashed just 700 meters from a residential neighborhood after a failed launch during a joint drill with US forces, according to the South Korean military.
Many locals endured a sleepless night after the fiery missile crash, as they waited for an explanation from authorities that did not come until morning.
“As this is a matter that concerns national security, I tried to refrain from commenting,” he said in an interview with The Korea Herald at his office on Thursday. “But it happened right here in Gangwon, and many residents were startled as a result, so I could not say nothing.”
At a press conference held earlier the same day, he labeled the military response as “sluggish” and “regrettable.”
“It’s regrettable what happened. One thing we should all remember though, I think, is that at the end of the day, it’s North Korea that we should be wary of, not our own military,” he stressed in the interview. “The missile crash left us dreading. Imagine if North Korea had fired a nuclear warhead.”
He said the “treacherous climate of international affairs” called for “staying united.”
Kim said that Gangwon Province — split in half by the Demilitarized Zone, with Kangwon Province in the North — has often been the first to witness provocations, and his role as governor is to make sure residents feel safe.
“Making people feel safe is what the military as well as administrative authorities are there for.”
He admitted that he had not been informed of the drill beforehand, and that he was also not offered an explanation following the accident.
“We learned our lesson the hard way this time. I trust that there will not be a repetition in the future.”
Kim, who served two terms as a lawmaker with the currently ruling People Power Party before he was elected governor in June, added that having the Yoon Suk-yeol administration in office means a stronger security alliance with the US.
He said that over his term he was willing to engage with North Korea, but “not in the subservient manner” he says was assumed by his predecessors.
“I believe that exchanges with North Korea on a municipal level are something we ought to be pursuing. Humanitarian programs in particular should continue,” he said.
“But when we have missiles flying over, we are not going to beg them to come to the table. I think our past experiences have taught us that does not help anyone.”
By Kim Arin ([email protected])