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[Editorial] A Shame for Korean Tourism

Posted November. 16, 2009 08:32,   


The tragic fire in Busan in which 10 people, including eight Japanese tourists, were killed in a blaze that swept through an indoor shooting range is a reminder of how Korean society remains insensitive to safety. In particular, the deaths of the Japanese tourists are a shame on Korea’s campaign for attracting foreign tourists. The Dong-A Ilbo prays for the repose of the victims and offers condolences to their bereaved families and those injured in the incident.

The incident could also negatively affect the sentiment of foreign tourists coming to this country. On Wednesday, the government declared 2011 and 2012 as “Visit Korea” years, launching a campaign to attract 10 million tourists per year. Even with an abundance of things to watch and eat, who will want to visit a country where public security or safety is threatened?

Japanese media are treating the tragedy as major news, showing great interest in the shooting range’s lax disaster prevention facilities. As commercial shooting ranges using real bullets are banned in Japan, Korean shooting ranges are very popular among Japanese tourists. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama asked Korean President Lee Myung-bak to cooperate in ensuring the safety of Japanese tourists visiting Korea. The government should do its best to identify the victims, compensate them, and support the bereaved families.

While the cause of the incident has yet to be identified, one of the main reasons is presumed to be that many of the victims were suffocated by toxic gas caused by the blaze at the shooting range, which had no windows. Indoor shooting ranges using real bullets focus on preventing noise and safety accidents that might be caused by bounced bullets. It is possible, however, that a fire could break out due to sparks caused by the firing of guns. If government-set standards did not include the mandatory use of inflammable materials and proper fire exits, such an enormous disaster was in the offing.

In a joint checkup of the safety system of the shooting range Nov. 6, police and public safety authorities decided that it posed no problems. The government should thoroughly investigate how authorities did their job. Eight shooting ranges across Korea do business with foreign tourists. Using this opportunity, the government needs to complement fire prevention measures in the standards for indoor ranges. It must take thorough measures to prevent any recurrence of such a disaster.