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Strengthening safety regulations alone can`t be a cure

Posted May. 06, 2014 19:10,   


The National Assembly is strengthening safety regulations following the tragic sinking of ferry Sewol. It passed vote on legislations to strengthen offshore safety including navigational aids law and mandating the establishment of safety measures for students` group activities including school trips. Changes are also imminent in the Park Geun-hye administration.

Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoon Sang-jick said, "Legally binding certification should go through further in-depth examination," meaning it will be excluded from the government`s regulation agenda. Legally binding certification refers to government-led certification that mandates products and services related with safety and environment to acquire, which was one of the deregulation agenda of the incumbent administration.

However, tightening regulation alone can`t be a cure. The Sewol wreck was more due to the inability to abide by existing regulations. It was not because the regulations were weak. Domestic passenger ships are obligated to do emergency training in every 10 days but Sewol failed to abide this safety regulation. Had it carried out emergency training even every month, such tragic incident could have been avoided.

Necessary regulations for safety should be created, while deficient regulations should be strengthened. Sewol was mandated to abide by regulations on maximum cargo loading capacity, life preservers and fire extinguishing facilities, and crew safety education. Safety operators at the Korea Shipping Association are given with this job, but Sewol failed to abide by most of the regulations. The current marine transportation law can`t punish safety operators due to errors under the revision in 2012. The National Assembly`s professionalism in safety legislations is very disappointing. Whether to tighten or ease regulations is not the absolute criteria. It is needed that the government enacts regulations that will be respected.

The practice of pouring out measures and strengthening regulations when tragic incidents occur is also a problem. On the Sewol wreck, some say it`s due to deregulation, but others say government officials` creating of poor regulations and then getting a job in business associations after retirement to take advantage of such regulations is the bigger problem. Regarding the latest tragic incident, the Korea Shipping Association permitted Sewol`s sail despite harsh conditions and the Korean Register of Shipping approved the extension and reconstruction of the ship that had poor resilience. The boards of these two organizations were headed by people who had been in office at the Oceans and Fisheries Ministry. In such a situation, regulation tightening can only lead to supervisory organizations putting further pressure on private institutions and secret exchanges such as bribery.