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Fireman “Made World a Better Place”

Posted December. 28, 2006 07:18,   


Fireman Seo Byung-gil saved 1,052 lives in 19,500 responses to alarms during his life. Although he is no longer with us, his spirit that valued life lives with his colleagues and family.

Seo died just a month before his retirement. On the last day of his life, he was dispatched to a gas explosion site in Geumjeong-gu, Busan on November 14. That day, Seo went inside a collapsed building with a colleague and rescued Kim (age 57) and Hwang (age 78).

The building was on the verge of collapsing, but Seo remained on the first floor of the building after letting his colleagues get out of the building. He chose to stay because he heard a cry that there were three more people inside. He was always determined to save even one more life.

Unfortunately, the building collapsed at 8:07 p.m. His colleagues called his name in vain. Only Seo died at that night.

On the night of November 21, Seo’s family invited his some 200 colleagues at Geumjeong Fire Station and held a party. Were he alive, he would have retired on November 22. Firemen risk their lives every day, yet they do not tell their families of the dangers of their work because they might worry. His colleagues were his family.

“I want to thank my father’s colleagues for their support,” said Seo’s son Seo Dae-sik, a social worker.

The Korea Greenfund Organization selected Seo as one of the 77 people that make the world a better place. Seonhaeng and S-oil designated Seo as a firefighter hero, and Korea Ethical Association selected him as a Volunteer Social Service Award winner.

However, all the support and praise for Seo are not enough for his family. Nothing is the same without him. His wife Hwang Chun-yim (aged 59) applied for a passport for the first time in her life in August to go on a honeymoon in December that they could not go on 34 years before. She still feels as if he would call her and come home at nights. She sometimes cries when mentioning her husband to her children.

“I saw your father in my dreams yesterday. I called and called, but he didn’t answer,” she said to her children.

Seo’s family holds a Buddhist service for the deceased at Gilsang-am in Haein Temple every Sunday.

“After January 2, when the masses for the dead 49 days after death are over, and when my mother feels okay, I will take her on a trip instead of a honeymoon,” said the son.

“Rest in place in heaven where there is no fire. Rest in peace. We will carry on your dignity and the sense of sacrifice that you showed us,” wrote the son.