Safety rules lacking for small-scale concerts

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Safety rules lacking for small-scale concerts

Scrutiny over an accident at an outdoor K-pop festival at Pangyo Techno Valley in Gyeonggi that left 16 dead and 11 injured on Friday has uncovered a number of safety regulation loopholes for outdoor concerts.

But perhaps the most glaring is that safety rules only apply to indoor and outdoor concerts with an expected audience of 3,000 or more.

For outdoor concerts with more than 3,000 people, a host organization must turn over a safety and countermeasures plan to the relevant city office. Sanctions follow if rules are found to be violated.

But small outdoor concerts with less than 3,000 are situated in a sort of blind spot when it comes to safety. For those performances, safety recommendations are suggested, but because those guidelines are not mandatory, no efforts are made to penalize hosting organizations that disregard them or fail to implement them properly.

In the case of the outdoor K-pop festival last week at Pangyo Techno Valley, for which 700 people were expected and about a thousand showed up, the organizers did not have to follow any mandatory safety measures or concerns.

They also did not need to obtain permission or a permit to hold the K-pop festival in a public area. Because the performance took place in a general plaza, the concert could be held regardless as long as the event was intended as a social activity meant to vitalize the community.

When the Gyeonggi Institute of Science and Technology Promotion (Gstep), the festival’s co-host, applied to use the space, Seongnam city reportedly responded that the request was permissible as long as the event did not go against the square’s intended establishment.

The other types of squares that allow for public gatherings but require the city’s permission are scenic squares, in which certain types of trees or flora are protected, and traffic squares, which are designated for pedestrians amid congested traffic.

“If small performances are influenced by bigger concerts - from general safety to water supply stations to soundproof facilities - they will confront all types of restrictions,” an official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said when asked why the government does not apply stricter regulations on small outdoor concerts. “And we thought that would shrink culture and art activities and decided to confine the application of performance act to concerts with more than 3,000 audiences.”

But some public safety experts have expressed concerns over loose regulations on outdoor concerts, which apply differently when taking into account a small event’s popularity and size.

“Although it is expected that small outdoor concerts will not attract many people, accidents can happen, especially when idol groups appear on stage,” said Lee Chang-wu, a public safety professor at Soongsil University. “For safety issues that can possibly lead to casualties, city or district offices should urge host organizations to comply with appropriate safety rules according to the characteristics of the performance.”


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