An empty promise?

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An empty promise?

A kindergarten building in Seoul nearly collapsed after a wall at a nearby construction site for an apartment complex fell over. The four-story Sangdo Kindergarten in Dongjak District, southern Seoul, crumbled as the ground it sat on gave way as the wall from the construction site caved in. We do not want to imagine what would have happened if the building came crumbling down in the daytime with 122 kindergartners inside.

The kindergarten had been trying to call attention to safety issues at the site. A professor said he had warned off a collapse due to weak geologic foundations after he investigated the site in March at the kindergarten’s request. The kindergarten said it sought outside advice, as the building had been shaking since the construction begun. It filed complaints with the district administrative office and the constructor upon finding fissures in the building floors. But the district office did not act, nor did the construction company take appropriate safety measures during heavy rain.

The accident is the result of poor oversight of construction sites. Due to scarcity of land, many buildings are being built on slopes. Authorities license their construction without inspecting the geologic conditions. Last month, a giant sinkhole opened at an apartment complex near a construction site. Reckless building and licensing is putting the public’s safety at risk.

Korea’s government has repeatedly vowed to make society safer after the Sewol ferry tragedy. President Moon Jae-in made the same promise. Despite annual nationwide inspections, major accidents continue. The government and local administrations must see this latest incident as their last chance. They must toughen oversight over potential risks to public safety and increase the penalties for poor safety compliance.

JoongAng Sunday, Sept. 8-9, Page 34
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