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“Are We Leaving Daegu like This?”

Posted March. 16, 2003 22:32,   


Public sentiment in Daegu is still reeling from the subway fire.

It has been about a month now since the Daegu subway arson tragedy occurred (February 18), however, surviving families cannot seem to find their way out of their deep shock and sorrow, and there still remains “a dark cloud” over the city.

Especially, since various problems have occurred in the coping procedures from this incident, surviving families and citizens are showing their general distrust and rejection against administrative authorities and political circles in general including the Grand National Party and the City of Daegu as well as the government and the administration party.

Around 100 members of families of those still missing have spent more than 20 days and nights in the cold on the 2nd underground level of the Joongangro Station and in the surviving families’ waiting room of the Joint Incense Burning Center.

Mrs. Chung Kyong-sook, 48, from Pohang, who had been grieving the loss of her college student son (21) and daughter (23), spent many sleepless nights in Joongangro Station trying to find their bodies, but fell ill and had to be hospitalized on March 13.

“I think about dying everyday, but am living these hard days in the comfort of my husband, who suffers more than me,” said Mrs. Chung.

Hospitalized at Patima Hospital in Daegu, Kim Eun-joo, 25, has been in treatment to remove toxic gas and black ash in her lungs for some 20 days, and Choi Woo-gyong, 57, is also spitting out black phlegm constantly because of severe burns to her throat.

Around 50 people, who were discharged from hospitals, are also suffering from serious mental and physical disabilities from the trauma of the fire.

President of a textiles company in Daegu, Mr. Kim, 50, said, “The subway arson tragedy has caused the local community to explode, already in crisis because of the results of the Presidential Election, so worries that the economy in Daegu entering worse times have spread.”

The areas around Joongangro Station in Daegu, which used to be a common meeting area, has changed into an uninhabited ‘ghost town’ in the evening.

Owner of a watch shop in the Joongang Underground Arcade near Joongangro Station, Kim Tae-sung, 30, said, “Shoppers stopped coming after the tragedy and sales have gown down 90%.”

It is estimated that in relation to the tragedy, there is a total loss of 700 billion won including all other tangible and intangible damage to the local economy.

Families of those missing, especially, feel that all assemblymen and municipal assemblymen in Daegu belong to the Grand National Party, and neglected to take care of their people. They also think that the disaster prevention system is poor, and coping measures are also in need of reform.

A professor at Youngnam University told the Donga Ilbo about public sentiment among the local people: “Since the Grand National Party, which received overwhelming support from Daegu citizens during the General and Presidential Elections, did not do what they could in terms of coping with the tragedy other than dispatching volunteers and opening the public opinion gathering window at the Joint Incense Burning Center, local people feel deeply betrayed,” he said.

There also is an assertion that the local community must get out of the shadow of this tragedy as soon as possible by examining the real facts of the tragedy and punishing those responsible as quickly as possible.

“There is a saying that ‘Daegu is in a mental panic’ because of the tragedy, but it is a little exaggerated,” President of Gyemyong University, Shin Il-hui said. “The people of Daegu, who shine when it comes to criticism, should fully display their potential and find a way back to normalcy.”