Union blames Coupang for delivery worker’s death

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Union blames Coupang for delivery worker’s death

A Coupang deliveryman in his 40s died during his shift last week, according to the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union, which claimed the man’s death was the result of the skyrocketing workload for delivery workers as the coronavirus prompts more people to purchase goods online.

The delivery man, surnamed Kim, was found dead on the steps of a villa in Ansan, Gyeonggi, on March 12. The union did not provide the man’s given name.

The Ansan police said Monday that Kim’s cause of death was coronary heart disease, a condition in which narrowed heart arteries fail to supply blood to the heart’s muscles. An autopsy determined that 75 percent of Kim’s coronary artery was blocked, the police said.

Coupang is one of the largest e-commerce services in Korea, famous for its overnight deliveries that bring products to customers’ doorsteps the very next day an order is placed.

Kim was on duty for overnight delivery, which starts at 10 p.m. and ends at 8 a.m. His co-worker was dispatched to find him after Coupang’s internal system showed that Kim’s workload hadn’t lessened. Kim had joined the e-commerce company in mid-February and had been engaged in the actual delivery work for 14 days after training.

As many villas in Korea, the building where Kim was found reportedly did not have an elevator. He was discovered early in the morning at the residence.

The union claims the cause of death was an excessive workload aggravated by a recent jump in demand. It also alleges that Kim’s position as a temporary contract worker would have caused him to be pressured to complete the assigned workload. Coupang delivery workers become eligible to apply for a permanent position after two years of experience, but the union has claimed that many of those workers fail to endure this period due to excessive workloads.

According to Coupang, the number of delivery orders soared by 2.2 million to a maximum 3 million per day in late February, when the coronavirus’s spread escalated dramatically in Korea, compared with late 2019.

A Coupang spokesman said Kim was only being assigned 50 percent of the workload normally assigned to more experienced delivery drivers and that the company increased its hiring of part-time workers to make up for the growth in demand.

Other e-commerce players have faced difficulty delivering their orders on time as the coronavirus outbreak pushed up the amount of orders. Last month, a surge in orders delayed Coupang’s overnight deliveries of fresh food for a few days, last month.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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