A 49th-day memorial rite for Lee Sun-ho who died at the age of 23 while helping with a cargo container at the Pyeongtaek Port in Gyeonggi Province was held by the social and labor committee of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism on Wednesday afternoon in front of the Government Complex Seoul. Lee died on April 22 under the weight of a 300-kilogram container wing at the site where he was working to earn college tuition. The bereaved family is demanding an investigation and punishment of those in charge, delaying his funeral.
As more and more young people turn to day labor to earn college tuition like Lee or they continue to struggle to find a permanent position, industrial accidents are increasing among those in their 20s. According to the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, the number of industrial accident victims aged under 24 soared from 8,367 in 2016 when the Guui Station accident happened to 10,578 in 2020. Data collected by the Dong-A Ilbo show that 249 people aged between 18 and 29 died from getting caught, falling, being under heavy objects, and other incidents from 2016 to March 2021.
Six out of 10 industrial accident victims are non-skilled workers who had been working for less than six months. The increasing number of industrial accidents among young workers is not unrelated to the fact that they are deployed to a site without sufficient training in advance. They are often asked to take over other miscellaneous tasks for being young, which further increases the likelihood of accidents. Lee also found himself in an accident because he was working on a container, which is outside the scope of his work of quarantine. He did not receive proper safety equipment, let alone safety training.
The Severe Accident Punishment Act will be enforced from January next year in case of such an accident to heavily punish responsible companies and executives. However, demands for revision are pouring in, saying that the act focused on post-accident punishment alone is not enough to prevent industrial accidents. Industrial accidents are caused in most cases because basic safety rules are not followed. Support and supervision should be provided to ensure preventive industrial culture is in place to assign tasks appropriate for workers’ skill levels, deploy them to a site after sufficient prior training, and have them work in accordance with safety rules. The unbearable pain of parents losing a young adult child to accidents should not be repeated.