Safety failures

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Safety failures

The shocking details of Hyundai Asan’s insane perception of safety regarding the death of Park Wang-ja at Mount Kumgang have now been revealed.

In addition to problems in the alert system between the resort site and the Hyundai Asan head office, we now know that North Korean soldiers detained a South Korean preacher surnamed Kim last June near where Park was shot.

The detention of the preachers was never reported to Hyundai Asan’s head office.

It is highly possible that Park’s death could have been avoided if those in charge had paid proper attention to this prior incident and tourists had been properly warned about straying into North Korea territory.

Although the Mount Kumgang tours started in 1998 on the grounds of separating economics from politics, Hyundai was forced to seek government help three years later when it ran into financial difficulties.

At the time, the administration of former President Kim Dae-jung spent around 90 billion won ($90 million) of taxpayer money from the South-North Korea Cooperation Fund on the tours. Although the decision to fund the scheme was made by the administration, Hyundai can’t deny that it owes a lot to South Korean taxpayers.

This is why Hyundai should have ensured that safety measures together with enhanced services for the guests were in place. However, when looking into the Park incident, Hyundai took none of the requisite steps and this situation makes us feel even more disappointed.

More than anything else, it is appalling that Hyundai seems so complacent about the fact that the tourist site is located within North Korean territory where unexpected events can happen at anytime. The fence was inadequate and the graver case involving preacher Kim was pushed under the rug. Hyundai needs to reflect on the fact that it has pursued profits with an apparent disregard for the safety of tourists.

The Kim and Roh administrations, including the incumbent Lee administration, cannot avoid criticism. The preceding administrations concentrated only on South-North reconciliation when they thought of Kumgang tourism.

But the current administration isn’t any different. When confronted by news of Park’s death, the government simply looked to Hyundai.

The government must ensure the basic safety of its people. Don’t leave that responsibility to a private company.

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