The devotion of our fathers

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The devotion of our fathers


Exit 2 of Nodeul Station on the Seoul Metro Line 9 is connected to Reservoir Park. That’s the location of the Norangjin Reservoir, where seven people were killed when a construction site flooded. During the rescue process on Wednesday, an eerie silence hung in the air. Firefighters, police officers, Seoul City officials, volunteers and reporters quietly did their jobs. The noise from the pumps and truck engines was deafening. Five of the missing workers were left under the 48-meter (157-foot) deep work site. The zigzagging stairs from the entrance to the underground reservoir vanished into the mud.

A sign that read, “Let’s Make Our Worksite Rewarding and Free of Injuries,” was hanging over the entrance. However, the disaster proved that the builder, Cheonho Construction, only talked about safety without practicing it. Jo Ho-young, 60, who was rescued immediately after the incident on July 15, died, and Park Myeong-chun, 49, a Chinese citizen, was found dead. He was found only 1 meter away from the bottom of the stairs, and he seemed to have died just before escaping. His body had severe wounds. A firefighter said that the rescuers went down and brought up the body wrapped in a blanket on a stretcher through the stairs instead of lifting it with a rope. Two-member diver units of the 119 Rescue Team searched underwater for missing workers, but the process was delayed because draining the water took a long time.

When I returned home, I learned from the midnight news that bodies of all missing workers were found. Two were found about 9:40 p.m. and three more were found about midnight. They included a father who worked underground and made 2 million won per month to support his son studying for the bar exam and a Chinese citizen who hadn’t visited his hometown for five years as he couldn’t afford the 600,000 won flight ticket. The families didn’t want to be called “the bereaved” at the rescue site, but their hopes were shattered.

I am concerned about the age range of the victims. The seven workers were 62, 60, 56, 55, 54, 49 and 45. Two were in their 60s and three in their 50s. Both of the workers in their 60s are Korean. According to the ban on age discrimination in employment and the laws on promotion for employment of the aged, workers over 55 are classified as seniors and those between 50 and 54 are semi-seniors. Recent statistics show that the number of employees between 50 and 60 are growing even when employment conditions are poor. The incident proved the employment of the seniors, in a very tragic form. The authorities must investigate the circumstances of the incident and accountability. Moreover, I sincerely hope the young generation would ponder upon the implication of the age distribution of the victims and take to heart the fatherly devotion and love of the older generation.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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