Society’s debt to the fallen

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Society’s debt to the fallen

The life of a 19-year-old worker with dreams of becoming a full-time staff member at a public company was brutally cut short at Guui Station in northeastern Seoul. The part-time maintenance mechanic was hit by an arriving subway train while working on a malfunctioning door.

His mother wailed over her son’s abrupt death, and mourners poured flowers upon the platform where he was killed. “A 19-year contract worker, he would have been somebody’s friend and son,” one sticky note at the memorial read. “His death is not an accident,” another said.

Politicians from various parties flocked to the scene and demanded the Seoul metropolitan subway authorities come up with new safety measures.

But what caused the accident must first be addressed.

According to Seoul Metro safety guidelines, there must be two mechanics working on a subway platform. This came after accidents at Seongsu Station in 2013 and at Gangnam Station in August last year.

But in actuality, the guideline has rarely been followed.

On the tragic day, six contract workers were assigned to repair jobs at 49 stations in northern Seoul. Two workers could hardly have moved as a team and still gotten all the work done.

Lines No. 1 through 4, run by Seoul Metro, reported five times more problems with doors than Lines No. 5 and 8 because these trains are fitted with different screen doors. “The problem is the system, not the manual,” read one sticky note.

Unless safety is upheld as the highest value for workers and the public, casualties cannot be prevented. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said his city administration will stop outsourcing safety workers.

The death of a young contract worker must help stop the practice of compromising safety to save on cost. It is the least that society can do for this young man.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 1, Page 30
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