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Taean Residents Call for Justice

Posted January. 19, 2008 05:44,   


Residents in Taean, South Chungcheong Province, held a rally on Friday to call for the government to enact a special law and provide active support in response to the country’s largest-ever oil spill.

One resident was taken to the hospital after attempting to burn himself to death. He is in critical condition because he drank poison before he set fire to himself.

Some 4,000 members of a protest group consisting of Taean residents held the demonstration at 1 p.m. Friday in Dongmun-ri, Taean, urging the government to fully compensate and restore damage-inflicted areas and to make the offenders take full responsibility.

The rally began with a silent tribute to two fishermen who took their own lives by taking poison after the oil spill, followed by a number of symbolic ceremonies such as the “oil tanker termination” ceremony and the “fishery product dumping” ceremony.

Kim Ji-gwon, chairman of the protest group, said, “Not only did fishermen lose their livelihoods overnight, but those who run tourist businesses, restaurants or inns are also at a loss over how to make ends meet.” He added, “The government must enact a special law to help the residents quickly regain hope, and Samsung Group must provide unlimited compensation after first making an apology.”

At 1:47 p.m., 47 minutes after the event commenced, a 56-year-old man, Jee, attempted to burn himself to death after drinking poison.

“After pouring the gasoline that he had brought in a plastic bottle onto his head, he set himself ablaze with a lighter while running towards the podium,” said Park Gwang-sik, who witnessed the suicide attempt.

Organizers of the event and the police put out the fire. Jee was taken to the Seo San Medical Center to receive emergency treatment and later transferred to Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital.

Jee delivered fishery products while running a seafood restaurant in Taean. It appears that he was in depression after the number of customers plunged following the devastating oil spill.

The South Chungcheong provincial government, which sees the suicide attempts by Taean residents as an expression of fear over losing livelihoods, has decided to provide 60 billion won in emergency funds to support their families.

“Out of the 30 billion won livelihood emergency support fund the government provided in December of last year, another 30 billion won that President-elect Lee Myung-bak promised to provide on Dec. 18 and another 15 billion won in donations that flooded into South Chungcheong Province, we are planning to release some of it immediately,” said South Chungcheong provincial governor Lee Wan-koo.

Mayors of the six cities which fall under the designation “special disaster zones” - Taean, Seosan, Boryeong, Seocheon, Dangjin and Hongseong – held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss how to distribute their emergency funds.

Taean residents Lee and Kim, respectively, took their own lives by taking poison on Jan. 10 and 15.