You can’t subcontract this

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You can’t subcontract this

The site of the collapse of a five-story building being demolished atop a bus in Gwangju on June 6. [NEWS1]

The site of the collapse of a five-story building being demolished atop a bus in Gwangju on June 6. [NEWS1]

The author is a national team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Korean word hacheong originates from a Japanese expression for consigning a certain job to someone else. The legal term is hadogeup. In construction and industrial fields, hacheong is more commonly used, as it clearly reflects the contractee-contractor relationship. Whenever we hear controversies over the hiring companies abusing their power over hacheong, we automatically assume that the contractors are the victims.

Contracting is not necessarily bad, as it saves costs for clients and enhances quality thorough collaboration with different businesses. But it only works when the client properly evaluates the capacity of the contractors and treats them fairly. When the client only focuses on saving costs and pressures contractors, safety issues, as well as quality, can be compromised. Article 29 of the Basic Act on Construction Industry prohibits multi-level contracting on construction sites.

But this rule was not followed in the field, and a disaster occurred. On June 9, a five-story building in a redevelopment zone collapsed. The building fell to the side onto a peaceful downtown road at midday. A bus stop was right on the spot where the building collapsed, and unfortunately, a bus was at the stop. Nine passengers were killed and eight were injured after the building collapsed on the bus.

The demolition company made a contract with the redevelopment association and the construction company made another contract with another business. This business made another contract with an even smaller company.

This is the typical multi-tier subcontracting system that violates the law. As subcontracting deals are made, the construction fee gets smaller, making a project riskier and cheaper. The company that actually resulted in the accident changed the plan to tear down from the top and started from the lower level to do the job faster.

A daughter who was visiting her mother in hospital, a mother who was heading to work after celebrating her son’s birthday and a high-school student going were killed. Their tragic deaths left us to clean up the distorted demolition industry. The government and local authorities presented belated plans. We need to closely watch how those responsible are punished and how the system is improved. It is our job to pay attention and watch. You can’t subcontract this duty.
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