Blame laid for lethal Gwangju construction accident
The design of the building had been altered from initial plans, increasing safety risks, the quality of the concrete used was subpar, and there were flaws in the management of the construction, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Monday.
The ministry has been investigating the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 11, in which the vertical section of a 39-story building’s facade collapsed as construction workers were pouring concrete on the roof.
The biggest reason for the collapse was the changes in the support structures between the 39th floor and 38th floor.
The space between the two floors that held pipes and electric wires was supposed to have several support beams while concrete was being poured for the 39th floor. The beams were removed too early.
The floor material used for the space between between the floors was weaker than in the initial design.
“Removing the supports was a huge structural risk, a big mistake.”
The quality of concrete was another major problem. Its strength was only 85 percent that specified in initial plan.
“We suspect more water were poured into the concrete [mix],” Kim said.
A third problem was mismanagement and safety oversight failure.
“The slabs between the 39th and 38th floors were supposed to be double layers, but the space between was impossible for the workers to enter,” said Kim. “So the construction methods were changed. When such structural changes are made, it needs approval by the construction supervisor,” Kim added. "However, all of [the safety inspections and approvals] were ignored."
Kim said the greatest responsibility falls on Hyundai Development Company (HDC).
“HDC, the contractor, is responsible overall,” Kim said.
The Gwangju government plans to conduct safety inspections on other buildings within the apartment complex.
It is currently choosing an institution specializing in inspections.
“Depending on the results, we plan to either strengthen or completely dismantle [the apartments],” said Kim Young-koo, director general for Technology and Safety Policy at the Land Ministry.
The government plans to announce penalties for those responsible including HDC later this month.
“As there’s huge worry by the public about this kind of accident happening again, we are planning the biggest penalty that the law allows,” the ministry official said.
HDC Chairman Chung Mong-kyu resigned after the collapse to take responsibility.
HDC was also held responsible for the death of nine people on a bus when another of its buildings collapsed in Gwangju in June 2021. Part of the building fell on the bus.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]