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[Op-Ed] Clearing Snow

Posted January. 06, 2010 02:58,   


When I was a correspondent in New York, I once cleared snow around my home in winter but it snowed again. Fortunately, a young Hispanic living nearby and his two friends cleared away the snow for 45 dollars. They kept coming to my home whenever it snowed. Looking at the heavy snowfall in Seoul reminds me of clearing snow when I was in New York. I worried that a neighbor might report me to police for not clearing snow in front of my home or that a passer-by might fall and sue me.

A mass of phone calls flooded city, county and district offices across the country Monday amid record snowfall, demanding immediate action for clearing snow. Certain callers reportedly used offensive language. Provincial and municipal governments, however, need extra administrative power to clean up snow piled up in alleys. It is a waste of money to buy snow removal equipment to clear a rare occurrence of heavy snowfall. Money is needed to pay for government officials or private services that district offices in Seoul run. The Seoul city government spent 1.15 billion won (1.1 million dollars) on calcium chloride and salt used to sprinkle on streets Monday. Reducing the scale of damage and inconvenience caused by a natural disaster is necessary but the cost should be carefully calculated.

Most provincial and municipal governments in 2006 introduced a rule on snow and ice removal by building managers. This rule is also called the “rule on clearing snow in front of my house.” The owner, occupants or managers of a building, whether it be a house, tall building, or school, must remove snow on the roads and sidewalks nearby the building. Removing snow in front of one’s house is not voluntary but a duty. Just like a campaign initiated by the northern Seoul district office of Seongbuk, snow on the main streets should be removed with administrative help and that on the back alleys with residents.

Residents, however, rarely follow the rule on snow and ice removal because of lack of penalty. A volunteer group from the Seoul district of Sangam, however, cleaned up snow on the hills after the heavy snowfall. The soldiers of the 1st Army headquarters cleared snow on the main roads of Gangwon Province. A civic center in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, encouraged the people’s participation by hanging an “exemplary” board to stores that clear snow well. Getting snow to melt with heat coils proved useful on a road on a hill in Seoul’s French community of Seorae Village, but volunteer cleanup efforts are much more effective when heavy snowfall hits.

Editorial Writer Hong Kwon-hee (konihong@donga.com)