The republic of accidentsWhy is the country so cruel to the young? How many more young lives will be cut short in buildings caught on fire, ferries sinking and at industrial sites for this country to learn to be more safety-conscious? The government promises and scrambles with so-called comprehensive investigations and measures, but few are convinced as these kinds of accidents continue to occur.
Earlier this week, 10 high school seniors went on a pre-graduation trip to celebrate the completion of their college exam a month ago. Three were found dead and seven others unconscious at a guesthouse in Gangwon province. They were suffocated by a carbon monoxide leak from the two-story pension’s heating system. Investigators found a faulty boiler exhaust pipe.
The lodging operator has run the guesthouse registered in a rural area, which is subject to lighter regulations and inspections than most lodging facilities in the country. It is not a must for such facilities to be equipped with alarm systems for toxic gas. The government only requires that alarm systems be installed at camps in case of fire. A gas alarm system costs less than 10,000 won ($8.90). Authorities have been making safety checkups on rural lodging facilities since last month. During one of those inspections, a health supervisor from Gangneung reportedly looked around the outside of the guesthouse where the incident occurred.
We can no longer trust authorities with our lives. No matter how tough the laws are, we are not safe from accidents unless service providers are strict about safety. They would not build facilities negligently if they imagined their own children working and sleeping in them. We must think of institutionalizing tougher punishments in order to stop businesses from sacrificing lives to save money.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 20, Page 30