Man steps through door to death

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Man steps through door to death

A 58-year-old man was with his friends on April 30 when he left the noraebang, or karaoke room, in Chuncheon, Gangwon, to grab a drink, stepped through a door and fell two stories to the ground outside, dying four days later from cardiopulmonary arrest due to brainstem paralysis.

“It’s probably not a bad accident,” his wife, surnamed Lee, told herself when she found out. “He’s going to be okay.”

But when she got to the hospital, Lee’s husband was in critical condition, had to undergo two rounds of surgery and was relocated to the intensive care unit (ICU).

The door he went through was a “cliff-style” emergency exit, equipped with a foldable ladder.

“Does it make sense to open the door to a cliff?” asks Lee. “How can public servants allow this? My husband wouldn’t have fallen to his death if there was a railing.”

Lee was astonished to later learn such emergency exits are legal. The Special Act on the Safety Control of Publicly Used Establishments states that a balcony or attached room must be installed for such an emergency exit and a fire escape ladder or some manner of escape mechanism must be included.

Absent from the act is any obligation to install stairs or railings. Moreover, establishments can be fined 3 million won ($2,662) for locking these exit doors.

Lee’s husband is not the only such victim, either. Two men in their 20s fell from a height of four stories in Ansan, Gyeonggi, in June 2015, leading to one death and one seriously injured. Last July, a 22-year-old woman surnamed Kim fracturing her head and arm after falling through the door of an emergency exit on the second floor of a noraebang in Dong District, Busan. Like Lee’s husband, the accident occurred while she was searching for the bathroom.

Last October, the central government mandated the installation of alarms that sound after opening an emergency door, safety ropes or railings to prevent falls and stickers prominently affixed to such doors. However, these safety measures only apply to new publicly-used establishments and not older places such as the noraebang Kim was at, which opened in 2013.

Lee plans to petition for the expansion of the law with e-People, an online petition website.

“I still can’t accept that my husband is gone,” Lee said. “It still feels as if he’ll open the door and come inside any moment now.”

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