A Third World tragedy here

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A Third World tragedy here

The collapse Monday night of a gymnasium roof at the Mauna Ocean Resort in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsan, killed 10 people and injured more than 100 during a welcoming ceremony for freshmen entering Busan University of Foreign Studies. We are dumbfounded at the loss of such young lives.

The tragedy revealed our society’s colossal lack of safety awareness. We take special note of safety warnings that should have been made about the gym. Factory buildings built with the same kind of prefabricated sandwich panels collapsed and killed two workers. Moreover, two feet of snow fell in Gyeongju, where the resort is located, which certainly should have rung alarm bells over the safety of the gym, not to mention follow-up weather reports that forecast even more snow for the region. Under such circumstances, however, the resort - absent-mindedly or in a single-minded pursuit of profits - received a great number of guests, whose safety was not heeded.

Use of sandwich panels save on construction costs and time, but at the cost of safety. It constitutes a dereliction of duty for the resort to allow hundreds of students to hold an event under an obviously feeble roof with two feet of snow piled on top.

We are dumbfounded at the student body’s unfathomable audacity to press ahead with the welcoming event even when weather conditions were obviously dangerous. The rescue team could barely approach the facility because of the heavy snow. The police must find out why the student body pushed ahead with the event under such conditions. School authorities also must correct their student bodies’ penchants for throwing extravagant welcoming parties for new students.

The accident took place on the 20th anniversary of the collapse of Seongsu Bridge in Seoul. We wonder if today’s Korea is any better than that of two decades ago.

In view of its attitude toward safety and standards, Korea is an underdeveloped country.

The tragedy occurred two days after President Park Geun-hye ordered officials from the Ministry of Security and Public Administration to reinforce the nation’s safety systems in accordance with one of her top priorities: enhancing public safety. The government must do its best to reassure the public. After figuring out the reasons for the collapse, the government must bring those responsible to justice and present fundamental solutions to prevent a recurrence. Halfhearted measures without substance will only enrage the people. No matter how long it may take, the government must come up with effective ways to improve public safety.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 19, Page 30

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