Updated February. 19, 2014 03:40
Ten people including nine freshmen of Busan University of Foreign Studies and one event service company employee were killed by a roof collapse at a gymnasium in the Mauna Ocean Resort in Gyeongju, South Gyeongsang Province. The young students who were ready to enjoy freedom at college life after having tough time for college admission returned home dead, breaking their parents hearts. The student council is said to have refused the universitys offer to host the event at the new campus. It is also regrettable that the university did not check safety in advance. No professor accompanied the students to the off-the-campus freshmen orientation.
The accident was caused by the roof that was not able to support the weight of wet snow. Gyeongju and its neighboring regions had about 50 centimeter of snow for the recent seven days. The resort has luxury accommodations but the gym was like a makeshift. Some experts claim that the structure of sandwich panels was a problem. Since the panes make it difficult to identify the materials on the surface, building owners often use them to avoid regulations. A few fire accidents in the past occurred at buildings with sandwich panels.
Climate change across the world causes not only storms and heavy rains during summer but also cold spells and heavy snow during winter, intensifying the severity. Since 2000, Korea has often encountered exceptional snowfalls. The middle region of Korea had large snow in 2004 and 2010, and the east coast in 2011 and this year. Snow removal vehicles and calcium chloride cannot be countermeasures against the snow damage alone. It is doubtful whether there was any review of preventive measures such as the safety standards that can withstand the weight of snow and the access for rescue vehicles in case of an accident.
For better public safety, President Park Geun-hye changed the Public Administration and Safety Ministry to the Security and Public Administration Ministry. The number of officials at the ministry increased but it shows few tangible results. A modern society is called a risky society. The students entered the gym, unaware of how risk it was. The society has the responsibility to manage risk. Past standards do not guarantee safety as climate change and industrial development produce more and more unpredictable accidents. The entire society should be vigilant and prepared for new risk factors. That is an advanced safe society.