Food delivery is only getting riskierKorea is famous for its ppali ppali (quickly, quickly) culture and lightning fast deliveries, but three fatal accidents of food delivery drivers in less than two weeks show the price being paid.
It was only two weeks ago that a terrifying black box video clip of a 23-ton cargo truck running over a 42-year-old delivery driver on a motorcycle caused online rage.
The Korean Federation of Service Workers' Union created a memorial area near the accident site in Seolleung Station, southern Seoul, and dozens of people stopped to leave flowers.
Then on Sept. 2, a delivery driver on the job was hit by a garbage truck making an illegal U-turn on a road in Geumcheon District, southwestern Seoul. He was immediately brought to a hospital, but died in the emergency room.
Another accident involving an SUV and a delivery motorcycle in Geumcheon District on Aug. 31 marked the third death of delivery drivers in 12 days.
The relentless fatalities are prompting calls for fundamental reforms in an industry that was dangerous before the Covid-19 pandemic -- and then got even worse.
The number of deaths of motorcycle drivers rose from 498 in 2019 to 525 in 2020, according to the Korea Transportation Safety Authority. That included all fatalities, not just delivery drivers.
Some blame reckless driving by the drivers themselves, and the police have begun to crack down on motorcycles on the roads.
The Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency reported 329 motorcycle traffic violations in just one day.
But according to the Korean Federation of Service Workers' Union, the reasons behind industrial accidents by food delivery drivers are not individual matters, but are structural parts of the industry and how it works.
Park Jeong-hoon, chairman of the Rider Union, another labor union for delivery workers, told the JoongAng Ilbo that if the delivery riders reject any calls or cannot deliver food on time, they receive penalties such as bad ratings.
"What happened to those delivery riders could have happened to any one of us," said a union member. "We know that our driving can be dangerous, but at the same time, it's what we feel we have to do in order to survive in this industry."
Park said that a registration system for delivery drivers should be implemented in order to ensure proper safety protocols and insurance to cover possible industrial accidents.
A bill to provide a safer work environment for delivery drivers was proposed by Justice Party Congresswoman Sim Sang-jeung last month and is pending in the National Assembly.
BY JUNG HEE-YUN, LEE JIAN [firstname.lastname@example.org]