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Construction industry must learn from HDC fiasco

Posted May. 06, 2022 07:51,   

Updated May. 06, 2022 07:51


HDC Hyundai Development Company announced Thursday it would tear down and rebuild the apartment complex in Hwajeong, Gwangju that took the lives of six people from a fatal collapse in January this year. The company projected that it will take 70 months to complete the reconstruction, with the additional expenses for the rebuilding estimated at around 370 billion won. This marks the first precedent where an entire apartment complex, whose construction has been completed by more than half, is to be demolished and rebuilt in the history of South Korean construction.

Experts say the company had to make such a drastic choice of complete demolition as it was deemed to be the only way to recover any trust. In fact, it was only seven months after it had yielded a total of 17 casualties from a demolition work in Hakdong, Gwangju in June last year, coming under fire from its customers, the government, and the political circles all at once. In fact, the very foundation of the construction company is at stake, with some of its major construction contracts in Gyeonggi, Gwangju, and Daejeon being canceled, and its partners urging them to step out of the projects that the company has already won the bid for.

Facing trouble on all sides, HDC’s only recourse seems to be a drastic reform tantamount to refounding itself. An investigation into the Hwajeong apartment complex found that the floor design was different from the original plan, the support beams had been removed earlier, and the hardness of concrete did not meet the standard. It was a disaster caused by human errors and the pernicious habit of shoddiness. HDC must reinspect every construction site to preempt potential risks and own up their responsibility to compensate and provide alternative housing for some 800 soon-to-be residents of Hwajeong apartment complex.

This numbness to safety is a perennial issue that has constantly impeded the growth of the country’s construction industry. In the first quarter of the year alone, a whopping 55 people have been killed at construction sites nationwide, and there is no sign of letting up. The rebuilding cost of 370 billion won is more than half the operation profits that HDC makes a year. Against this backdrop, Won Hee-ryong, the candidate for the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, is warning that the company would go down if similar incidents happened again. A company that has failed to manage safety will no longer stand. The entire construction industry must learn from the tragic mistakes of HDC and kick the old habit.