Coupang fire was reported immediately, contractor says

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Coupang fire was reported immediately, contractor says

Coupang’s warehouse in Icheon, Gyeonggi on Sunday. [NEWS1]

Coupang’s warehouse in Icheon, Gyeonggi on Sunday. [NEWS1]

 
Following a devastating and deadly fire at a Coupang warehouse, a battle over the details about the initial response to the incident is raging in the local press and online, with rumors being met by denials and silence.  
 
The nitty-gritty is key, as it could be the difference between seeing what transpired last week as tragic accident or the result of negligence and bad management.  
 
In a statement released Tuesday, Joeun Systems, a Coupang contractor, defended the work of its employees working at the Coupang logistics center.  
 
“Claims that a security guard ignored and made fun of the report are not true,” the company said in reference to suggestions that a sluggish response to initial reports of the fire slowed the raising of the alarm and the notification of emergency services.
 
Security guards at the warehouse are tasked with preventing accidents and making sure employees don’t bring in dangerous materials.
 
A massive fire broke out at the 127,178-square meter Deokpyeong Logistics Center, Gyeonggi, on June 17. It was extinguished six days later, on Tuesday afternoon. One firefighter died in the line of duty responding to the conflagration.
 
Since the fire starting burning out of control, Coupang has met a barrage of criticism about its response to it and its practices in general.
 
Claims have included accusations that the security guards at the facility dismissed the initial reports of smoke and that the sprinkler system did not kick in until 8 minutes after the fire started.
 
Most criticism has been leveled in anonymous posts on the internet or by people without firsthand knowledge of the situation.
 
A person who claims to have been the first to report the fire wrote on a Blue House petition Monday that one security guard ignored the report and another laughed.
 
 
“There is no fire, so don’t care about it,” the security guards said, the person wrote. The person was told to “go home.”
 
People can post on the Blue House petition site without using real names, and they are not required to disclose their identities at all.
 
According to the Joeun Systems statement, the guard told the person reporting the fire “OK, I’ll confirm it,” and promptly passed on the information.
 
Coupang has not responded to questions that have been raised online and by unions.  
 
“Authorities have not yet made an official statement on the fire, so there is no need for us” to do so, a spokesperson for Coupang said.
 
Kang Han-seung, Coupang Corp. representative director, issued a general statement last Friday apologizing and expressing concern and went to the scene of the fire on Thursday, but Kim Bom, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange-listed parent company, has not commented about the disaster.  
 
The company has faced other criticism in recent days, only adding to questions about the management of its businesses.  
 
Protestors are criticizing the sale of products on the Coupang site decorated with the Japanese Rising Sun flags, a symbol of wartime aggression, and the response by Coupang Eats to an altercation between a customer using the delivery service and a restaurant owner, who ended up dying after collapsing during the confrontation.  
 
Posts on the internet are calling for a boycott of company, with more than 100,000 posts on Twitter regarding its membership program, though so far there are no indications that customers are reducing their use of Coupang.  
 
BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]
 
 
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