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(Editorial) Shoddy construction at Inchon Airport

Posted July. 17, 2000 16:33,   


The Inchon International Airport, still under construction and expected to serve as an international connection hub in the Far East, is a project undertaken by the government on a scale never before seen in Korea. In the last eight years, Korea has so far poured in 7 trillion won. The airport, once complete, will boast a passenger terminal which will span over 100,000 pyong (about 30,303 Sq. meters) and have a capability of processing 27 million passengers, both domestic and international, through its doors.

The facility will no doubt become Korea`s welcoming smile to the world. As such, its construction requires a heightened sense of responsibility and duty by the contractors and inspectors as they place precision, accuracy and transparency at the top.

The appalling disclosure made by a former construction inspector involved in the construction for three years, Jung Tae-Won, reveals a level of shoddy construction on a systemic level. The disclosure is the more appalling, and credible as well, as it is detailed and comprehensive. He has pointed a rather stern finger of accusation at the irresponsible, almost scandalous, actions of the supervisory inspectors. He has accused them of turning blind eyes to slipshod modifications to the blue print, unsatisfactory work on fire and water proofing, procurement of low grade construction material and construction method, and a passing glance at safety reports among others.

In addition, if alleged incidents of contractors physically abusing inspectors and demanding their signatures of approval on misrepresented inspection reports or inspectors accepting graft in return for turning the other way are proven to be true, it should most certainly demand action. If the contractors are allowed to use physical force to demand obedience by the inspectors, it is much like throwing mud at the very system of laws which created the supervisor inspection board to oversee soundness of construction works.

As for the on-going investigation into the suicide by one inspector at Inchon Airport, Jung has alleged that the over-burdening pressure by the upper-management forcing inspectors to accept graft from the contractors led to his suicide. If true, it will surely mean that a very old systemic symbiotic relationship has existed between the contractors and the inspection body. It is time now for the construction inspection board to open its records and answer the accusations by disclosing the true situation at the construction site and show to the public how much of the accusations are true or false. Should discrepancies be found, they will surely need to re-inspect and correct the situation.

Having a rather undesirable record of Sam-poong Department Store and Sung-su bridge "collapses", Sea-land fire tragedy, and other various accidents resulting from negligence of the first order, Korea has become a nation with negative-recognition by the international community.

In the current on-going investigation of the traffic pile-up involving vehicles crashing in a chain reaction, the picture of negligent driving and road safety violations is emerging. This tragedy so shamefully exemplifies the working-consciousness of a third world nation which turns blind eye to safety as it scrambles to do all things "quickly and cheaply."

The Inchon International Airport still has three years left before its proposed opening. It goes without saying that a meticulous inspection must be conducted as well as investigation into any possible criminal activities. It is time now to start a process of un-covering rather than look for ways to cover-up the misdeeds.