Ministry set to condense emergency call numbers

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Ministry set to condense emergency call numbers

Twenty emergency call numbers are set to be integrated into three, the Ministry of Public Safety and Security announced on Tuesday.

The numbers to be used are 119, 112 and 110.

The decision follows an analysis by the ministry of the emergency call system since the Sewol ferry disaster in April, which killed more than 300 people.

The disaster revealed that most victims did not know the emergency call number for marine accidents, failing to call 122. Instead, they dialed 112, which is designated for crimes, or 119, which is designated for fire and disasters. That confusion led to a delay in controlling the accident, it said.

Confusion over the emergency call numbers raised questions over the effectiveness of an emergency hotline solely for marine accidents, particularly since most people of unaware such an option exists.

The overhauled system will combine six emergency call numbers for disasters into 119 for disaster emergency. And the 11 numbers related to crime will be integrated into 112: Those previously included 117 for school violence, 1388 for youth problems and 1366 for female violence.

The new system will take effect next year, and the old numbers will continue to stay in use just in case, according to the ministry.

The other 10 emergency call numbers for civil affairs, which accompanies counseling in many cases, will be integrated into 110. Most of those numbers provoked confusion, as they consist of four or more digits.

It was previously proposed that authorities combine 112 and 119 into one number, like in many other countries including the United States and Britain.

In the United States, in situations where immediate assistance or medical service is required, or police or fire department intervention, citizens are to dial 911.

However, “we decided to leave the two numbers separate because it turned out that 99 percent of people know the difference between the two numbers based on the survey we conducted,” a ministry official said. “Also, combining the two numbers could cause a delay in the case of big accidents or disasters, when calls flood in.”

Although 119 and 112 will remain separate, the ministry added that it would connect the two systems to easily share reports for quick processing, even if a person calls the wrong number.

BY PARK YUNA [ypc3c@joongang.co.kr]


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