A family who stayed at a pension in Donghae City, Gangwon Province during the Lunar New Year’s holiday suffered a gas explosion, which killed five members and injured two. Joint identification revealed that gas leakage from neglected LP gas pipes and the flame on the portable stove used by one of the family members invoked the explosion. It has only been a year since the gas leakage that killed some 10 guests including three high school students at a pension in Gangneung, Gangwon in December 2018. It is another man-made disaster occurred due to widespread public apathy towards safety.
The pension where the accident occurred was illegally conducting business without registering as an accommodation. It altered the use purpose of a refrigeration factory built in 1968 to a multi-household house nine years ago to use it as a pension. Accommodations in farming and fishing villages went through a safety check after the disaster in Gangneung, but the pension dodged it because it was not registered as an accommodation. The Donghae Fire Station uncovered unlicensed business operation of this pension and reported it to the Donghae City, which did not take any action. It even introduced the pension on its webpage, which shows how irresponsible the city officials are.
Pensions are accommodations in farming and fishing village, which were introduced to increase income of residents in remote villages. Many are unlicensed, however, because the penalty is either a fine of up to 10 million won or a maximum prison sentence of one year. Local governments are sitting on their hands, saying that they are understaffed and business owners do not open their door to the crackdown agents. Lax regulations for pensions encourage lodgings companies, rather than famers and fishers, to conduct business, defeating the purpose of the law.
Illegal accommodations that threaten the safety of our citizens should not be neglected any longer as the number of domestic and foreign tourists is on the rise. The law, which orders pensions to be smaller than 230 square meters, encourages illegal activities, and does not reflect the reality where sharing economy businesses, such as Airbnb, are growing. It is high time to innovate outdated regulations and introduce tougher punishments against illegal activities that threaten the public safety.