Korea’s safety insensitivity“That’s what we really want. In fact, it is desirable for the company to voluntarily act before the government gets involved,” said the Korean government official dealing with IKEA when asked why the chests and dressers that had resulted in deaths or injury to children were not banned from sales in Korea. In the United States, 29 million units were recalled and a ban on sales was decided. But the same models are still sold in Korea.
In the United States, a 22-month-old baby died when a dresser fell over earlier this year. The baby opened and climbed the drawers, and the furniture tipped over. Four months later, in June, the U.S. government banned sales of 32 products of similar designs. The U.S. website of IKEA states, “Together we can make home safer” and provides detailed safety instruction.
However, the Korean website still features the dressers in question, alongside a picture of smiling family. There is no information on a recall or sales ban. It says, “Fix it tightly” and instructs to anchor furniture on the wall. It also states that there has been no accident reported when the dressers are anchored on the wall.
Wooden furniture experts say that IKEA’s move is controversial. Park Hee-jun, professor of housing environmental design at Chonbuk National University, says that Korean furniture uses heavy wood on the back and when the drawers are opened, the center of weight does not shift to the front, and therefore, no instruction to anchor on the wall is necessary. Since Koreans don’t usually fix dressers on the wall, IKEA’s instruction would not easily change the behavior of the users.
The United States established the safety standards for dressers in 2014. Even when the drawers are opened and the weight shifts to the front, it should stand safely. When a child weighing over 20 kilogram (44 pounds) climbs up, it shouldn’t tip over. The Korean government is making belated moves to survey all dressers sold in Korea and set the standards. A committee will be formed to investigate the case and conduct shock test, so it would take at least three months for decision to ban the IKEA dressers from the Korean market.
In the United States, the parents of the children killed or injured in IKEA dresser-related accidents say that people may not follow the instructions fully, so the dressers should be removed from the home. Yet, Korean parents are still buying the dresser in question from the IKEA store today. The safety insensitivity in Korea is still in progress.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 26, Page 29
*The author is a business news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.