중앙데일리

Subway official told driver of train to leave passengers

Feb 26,2003
Police have learned that the engineer of the second train to enter the burning Jungangno subway station in Daegu had been ordered repeatedly by a subway controller to take out the train’s master key and abandon the train. The engineer, Choi Sang-yeol, had been accused by the police earlier of having abandoned his train and passengers after the Feb. 18 arson attack. He had removed the master key, cutting power to the train’s exit doors, making them impossible to open without finding a manual door release tucked away under the train cars’ seats. The majority of the confirmed deaths so far were among passengers in that train.
Oh Seok-gu, a Daegu subway system official, admitted to police yesterday that he had censored the transcripts of conversations captured on tape at the system’s control center. He told police he considered the conversation with the engineer “too sensitive” to include in the original transcript.
Police, who now have the original tapes from which the altered transcript was made, said that an unidentified controller at the center repeatedly ordered Mr. Choi to “turn off the switch” and “run away.”
According to the tape, Mr. Choi was told, “It’s too dark. Turn off the power first and just escape to the platform.” He asked what he should do for the passengers; the controller ignored the question and said, “We can’t get a grasp of the situation now, so turn off the switch first, pull out the master control key and escape.”
Those orders were repeated about 10 times, police said, but did not identify the controller who gave them. The authorities said the controller had told them during questioning that he had told Mr. Choi to take such steps to avoid electrical damage to the train cars.
Police said they had been looking closely at the possibility that the original transcript they had been given by subway officials was incomplete or altered. Earlier, they had learned that the transcript was written and delivered to them only after three meetings among subway system officials on the day of the arson attack in which over 180 persons were killed and over 300 are still missing.
Police also suspected that the command center personnel might have manipulated the transcript to pin the blame for the deaths on Mr. Choi.
Mr. Choi’s own reported testimony, however, had been confused; he first told police that he had not been notified about a fire in the station before he entered it and then retracted that assertion.
“If we confirm that the traffic controller ordered the driver to turn off the switch knowing that passengers were still in the train, we will consider intentional homicide charges,” a police official said.


by Special Reporting Team


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