Category: Workers’ Health and Safety

Around one-quarter of South Koreans stuck in low-wage work (hankyoreh)

More women than men in low-wage work, and despite increase, South Korea’s welfare spending still roughly half OECD average

Around one-quarter of South Korean wage earners are engaged in low-wage work, a percentage that has remained virtually unchanged with just a 0.5 percentage point drop in the past 10 years, a study shows.South Korea’s public and social welfare expenditures were also found to be just half the average for OECD member countries.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced the findings as part of a report titled “Social Security Viewed through Statistics 2016” published on Mar. 2. The social security statistics consist of 162 representative indicators in areas such as family, health, work, employment security, poverty, and environment.
The findings published on Mar. 2 showed 23.7% of workers in low-wage jobs, the third highest rate in the OECD after Ireland the US. The indicator is a representation of wage inequality, with higher percentages of low-wage workers signifying not only labor market inequality but a greater likely of working poverty.The category of low-wage workers includes those earning less than two-thirds the median salary for all wage earners. By 2014 standards, it represented an hourly wage below 6,712 won (US$5.84), or approximately 1.4 million won (US$1,220) per month.
The rate of low-wage employment was far higher for women than men by a margin of 37.8% to 15.4% – a number attributable to the large percentage of female workers in low-income industries such as hospitality and restaurants or in irregular positions. The percentage of workers in low-wage jobs was also down by only 0.5 percentage points from the 24.2% recorded in 2004, indicating almost no improvement in the preceding decade.
South Korea’s public and social welfare spending was found to remain at a low level. In 2014, South Korea spent 10.4% of GDP on public and social welfare, or roughly half the 21% average for the OECD’s 30 member countries.At the same time, the Ministry of Health and Welfare noted, “While the OECD average increased by 0.98% a year from 2000 to 2016, South Korea’s annual rate of increase in public and social welfare spending over the same period was high at 5.4%.”The rate of national Basic Livelihood Benefits payment was calculated at 3.2% for 2015, with 16,460,000 beneficiaries. The rate showed almost no increase from 2001, when it stood at 3%.
By Hwangbo Yon, staff reporter

[Statement] Another methanol poisoning accidents identified in the SAMSUNG supply chain

#Methanol_poisoning #Samsung #subacontract_labor #Solidarity_for_Workers_Health
8 methanol poisoning accidents identified during last 2 years.
Who is responsible and who can make them responsible?

SEOUL, South Korea, October 17, 2016 – According to Solidarity for Workers` Health (here in after SWH), two more occupational accidents related to methanol poisoning were recently reported in the SAMSUNG Electronics’ supply chain.
A 29-year-old male worker surnamed Kim who was dispatched to DuckyongENG, a subcontractor for SAMSUNG, showed signs of blindness on February 24, 2015. Also, on January 16, 2016, another 35-year-old male worker surnamed Cheon working for BKTech, which is also a subcontractor for SAMSUNG, showed the symptoms of blindness on the way back home from work. He was taken to a nearby hospital on the following day, however he lost his sight in his right eye, and most vision in his left eye. Both of the victims have only recently realized that their accidents are deeply concerned with the methanol poisoning, thus decided to report their cases to SWH.
Methanol can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, sight loss and even death. Ethanol is recommended over methanol because it is less toxic, but ethanol costs three times more.
Both of the workers were responsible for the process related to CNC equipment. The CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) machine is a tool capable of processing and scaling metal materials to a previously input value. The CNC equipment used by the victims is a cutting tool that cuts according to previously input levels. The machine maintains refined control while carving aluminum metal, thus, was used to produce a large amount of mobile phone parts.
Both of the victims worked in the process of producing mobile phone parts using the aforementioned CNC equipment; methanol was used as cutting oil in this machinery. The cutting oil was used when cutting metal materials, to have the blade cooled and lubricated so as to remain clean and, thus, extend the life of the machine overall. The CNC equipment used by the victims had a hose that automatically sprayed the cutting oil to the blade. As a result, a high concentration (99.9%) of methanol was continuously sprayed while the machine was in operation.
There remains “high possibility” of the existence of
unidentified victims.
Including these newly reported 2 cases aforementioned, up to date a total of 8 methanol poisoning accidents which were concerned with CNC process in the electronic industry supply chain have been identified to the public. All of these accidents occurred during the past two years. According to industrial health doctors, this is unprecedented; they are saying that these kinds of occupational accidents like the methanol poisoning had been disappeared long ago in the early 20th Century.
What is even more shocking is that there remains high possibility that more victims who might be diagnosed with acute methanol poisoning caused by the exposure while working in the CNC process have not been identified yet.When a series of accidents occurred in February, 2016, the Ministry of Employment and Labor conducted an inspection over all the factories in which methanol was used. After the inspection, the Ministry announced that there is no more poisoning case in the workplace. However, these accidents aforementioned have not been identified by the Ministry at that time, which shows that the announcement is unreliable. Also, according to Kim, one of his colleagues also having trouble with the eye vison did not report his case to the Ministry.
A press conference was held at the National Assembly on October 12, 2016. “I came forward because I hope there will be no more victims like me,” Kim said at the press conference. Also, Cheon said, “I haven`t heard how dangerous my work was.”
메탄올 실명 추가 피해자 - 국회기자회견 사진.jpg
SAMSUNG, a prime contractor should take the responsibility for the methanol poisoning in its supply chain.
treatment methods for methanol. The workers neither received notifications of the substance’s danger nor had on-board orientation regarding the danger of their work. In addition, the workers never saw a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) during the course of their employment.
NGOs argue that SAMSUNG, a prime contractor should take the responsibility for the methanol poisoning in its entire supply chain. Specifically, they urge SAMSUNG should directly monitor not only the first tier subcontractors but also the second and third tier ones.
However, SAMSUNG has not officially assumed any responsibility for the occupational injuries of its subcontract workers. So far, SAMSUNG does not recognize the responsibility to directly monitor its second and third tier subcontractors, saying that it is ‘impossible’ for prime contractors to inspect all subcontractors, because there are too many. Moreover, SAMSUNG insists that it is capable of monitoring only first tier subcontractors, whom they have a direct contract, not subcontractors behind the first tier.
This argument obviously goes against what the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights (hereinafter UNGP) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises say about the responsibility of prime contractors in the supply chain. The right to work in a safe environment is fundamental and significant, which should be enjoyed by all workers irrespective of the tier of their workplace in the supply chain or whether they are directly employed or dispatched.
Victims and NGOs have already submitted the LETTER OF ALLEGATION to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights last June, arguing that SAMSUNG, one of the respondents, has abandoned its responsibility of monitoring the violations of occupational safety and health stemming from its subcontractors beyond the second tier in the supply chain, which constitutes the violation of the UNGP. NGOs are going to provide updated information about the two newly identified accidents to the UNWorking Group.
More information 
1. Samsung, LG subcontract wokers, blinded by methanol intoxication (youtube)
2. Methanol poisoning victims speak out(koreaherald)
3. Infringement of the Right to Health for Laborers in Samsung and LG Electronics’ Supply Chain Operations


Statment released from Solidarity for Worker’s Health :

hospital workers strike against merit pay system

“Hospital workers strike against merit pay system”

…”Since it is tricky to quantify performance at hospitals, workers say they will be measured based on medical fees they generate, which will motivate them to make patients undergo unnecessary tests and treatments. They could also charge fees for services which were originally free, or buy low quality medical supplies in order to reduce costs, which will negatively affect patients.

“Performance-based pay will make institutions, which exist for the public, operate according to capitalism. This will result in squeezing money out of patients or only treating patients who need expensive treatments ― hospitals will forget their duty and become commercialized,” the leaders said.”…

Report: Samsung endangered workers health in S Korea(Alzazeera)

Sign  the Petition:

#Samsung #trade_secret #occupational_safety

Court documents show the electronics giant kept information on chemicals from workers for fear of exposing trade secrets

Samsung Group is South Korea’s largest family-controlled conglomerate [The Associated Press]

South Korean authorities let Samsung withhold from sick workers and their families crucial information about the chemicals they are exposed to at its computer chip and display factories, an Associated Press investigation has found.

A worker-safety group has documented more than 200 cases of serious illnesses, including leukaemia, lupus, lymphoma and multiple sclerosis, among former Samsung semiconductor and LCD workers.

 Viewfinder – A Father’s Protest

Seventy-six have died, most in their 20s and 30s.

It is extremely difficult for workers to get compensation for occupational diseases from the South Korean government, and without details of their exposure to toxins in their workplaces it is almost impossible.

“In a situation where people’s lives are at stake, [Samsung] brought uninformed kids from the countryside and acted like money is everything, using them as if they were disposable cups,” said Park Min-Sook, 43, a former Samsung chip worker and breast cancer survivor.

Hwang Sang-Gi, father of Hwang Yu-mi, a former Samsung factory worker who died of leukaemia aged  22, told the AP that the company once offered him 1 billion won ($914,000) in exchange for his silence.

“The idea was to deny her illness was an occupational disease and to leave me without any power to fight back,” said Hwang, who launched a movement seeking independent inspections of Samsung factories.

Since 2008, 56 workers have applied for occupational safety compensation from the government. Only 10 have won compensation, most after years of court battles. Half of the other 46 claims were rejected and half remain under review.

People who have claimed that they became ill because of work they did for other major South Korean manufacturers, including Hyundai Motor, have received help from their unions in advancing their claims. Hyundai Motor now must get union approval before introducing new chemicals into its manufacturing processes. Samsung’s workforce is not unionised.

Trade secrets over workers’ health

In at least six cases involving 10 workers, the justification for withholding information was the protection of trade secrets. Court documents and interviews with government officials, workers’ lawyers and their families show that Samsung often cites the need to guard trade secrets when it asks government officials not to release such data.

“Our fight is often against trade secrets. Any contents that may not work in Samsung’s favour were deleted as trade secrets,” said Lim Ja-woon, a lawyer who has represented 15 sick Samsung workers.

Lim’s clients have been unable to get access to full reports on facility inspections, which are produced by third parties to comply with South Korean law, but remain the property of Samsung. Only excerpts of some independent inspections can be found in some court rulings, he said.

South Korea law bars governments and public agencies from withholding corporate information needed “to protect the lives, physical safety, and health” of individuals on the grounds of trade secrets, but there are no penalties for violations. Lim said that the law on occupational disease compensation also obligates Samsung to give workers the data they need to make claims.

Government officials openly say corporate interests take priority, that evaluating trade-secrets claims is difficult, and that they fear being sued for sharing data against a company’s will.

“We have to keep secrets that belong to our clients,” said Yang Won-baek, of the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, or KOSHA. “It’s about trust.”

Asked why he used the word “clients” to describe companies his government agency helps regulate, Yang said it’s probably because he treats those companies “as I treat clients”.

He said the companies KOSHA evaluates also review the agency, and the finance ministry considers those reviews when it sets agency budgets.

When asked for comment, Samsung issued a statement to the AP saying it never “intentionally” blocked workers from accessing information and that it is transparent about all chemicals it is required to disclose.

It also said there was no case where information disclosure was “illegally prevented”.

However, documents from courts and the labour ministry show that as recently as last year, Samsung asked the government not to disclose details of chemical exposure levels and other inspections – even at the request of judges for use in workers’ compensation lawsuits.

In a letter to regulators signed by the company’s chief executive, Samsung said that if factory details including “types and volumes of substances” were released for a workers’ compensation case, “it is feared that the technology gap with rivals at home and overseas would be reduced and our company’s competitiveness would be lowered. For that reason they are trade secrets that we treat strictly as secrets, we request not to disclose.”

‘Rigorous’ management

Although the company no longer omits lists of chemicals as it did in Hwang Yu-mi’s case, it has recently withheld details about exposure levels and how its chemicals are managed.

Samsung states on its website that its chemical management system is “rigorous” and “state-of-the art”. It has had “real-time, 24/7 chemical monitoring” in all facilities since 2007, the year the government began inquiries into Yu-mi’s death.

Yet Samsung began monitoring some toxic byproducts in the air only after a 2012 inspection detected benzene and formaldehyde – both known carcinogens – at its chip factories.

Baik Soo-ha, a Samsung Electronics vice president, told the AP that Samsung has redacted trade secrets in documents given to individuals only when their requests appeared not “purely” meant to determine occupational diseases.

“We have a right to protect our information from going to a third party,” he said. Baik did not elaborate on what sort of ulterior motives Samsung believes might be behind some requests.

Original Article from:

2 workers die in renovation from a motel to hospital (Koreaherald)

Renovating motel to hospital seems common practice in S.Korea thesedays.

#worker’s_death #motel_to_hospital #Korea

Two workers died and four were injured when the roof of a three-story building collapsed Sunday during renovation work in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, Monday.

Three of the six workers were buried under the debris when the roof collapsed during work to transform the third floor from a motel to hospital offices.


Two of the buried workers died, but one was found alive after a 14-hour rescue effort.

The building’s structure was too weak use heavy machinery in the rescue operation, and the number of workers assigned to the rescue had to be limited to 20 at a time to avoid a secondary collapse.

Two of the workers were found to have been crushed to death by the debris.


A third was found to have survived, having stepped outside to smoke against a wall minutes before the sudden cave-in, avoiding the direct impact of the fallen roof.

The authorities suspect that the workers had unwittingly knocked down a wall that supported the roof, mistaking it for a non-supporting partition wall to separate motel rooms.

The mistake may have arisen partly because the building differed from typical Korean structures as it was built entirely of unreinforced brickwork, and blueprints of the original construction were missing, authorities said.


The authorities plan to question whether there were any legal breaches in the reconstruction work.

The first floor of the building is being used as a Chinese restaurant and the second floor is a hospital office area.

The renovation had been intended to expand the hospital’s premises.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (

Original article from :

2 words keep sick Samsung workers from data: trade secrets

#samsung #banolim #trade_secret #workplace_safety

2 words keep sick Samsung workers from data: trade secrets

In this April 22, 2016 photo, Hwang Sang-gi, father of Hwang Yu-mi, a former Samsung factory worker who died of leukemia at the age of 22, wears shoes in order to an interview outside Samsung buildings in Seoul, South Korea. Yu-mi went to work bathing silicon wafers in chemicals at a Samsung factory that makes computer chips for laptops and other devices. Four years later, she died of leukemia. Sang-gi launched a movement demanding the government investigate health risks at Samsung Electronics Co. factories after learning another worker at the same semiconductor line of Yu-mi also had died of leukemia. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — As a high school senior, Hwang Yu-mi went to work bathing silicon wafers in chemicals at a Samsung factory that makes computer chips for laptops and other devices. She died of leukemia four years later.

After Yu-mi’s 2007 death, her father, Hwang Sang-gi, learned a 30-year-old worker at the same semiconductor line also had died of leukemia. The taxi driver launched a movement demanding the government investigate health risks at Samsung Electronics Co. factories.

When Hwang sued after his claim for government compensation was denied, he struggled to get details about the factory environment. Samsung did not release that information to worker-safety officials.

An Associated Press investigation has found South Korean authorities have repeatedly withheld from workers and bereaved families crucial information about chemicals used at Samsung’s computer chip and liquid crystal display factories. Sick workers need access to such data through the government or courts to apply for workers’ compensation. Without it, government rejections are common.

In at least six cases involving 10 workers, the justification for withholding the information was trade secrets.

South Korean law bars government agencies from withholding public health and safety-related information because of trade-secrets concerns, but there are no penalties for violations.

Samsung no longer omits lists of chemicals used on production lines from reports, as it did in Hwang Yu-mi’s case. But officials have withheld details about exposure levels and how chemicals are managed.

“Our fight is often against trade secrets. Any contents that may not work in Samsung’s favor were deleted as trade secrets,” said Lim Ja-woon, a lawyer for 15 sick Samsung workers.

Lim’s clients have been unable to see full, third-party reports on factory inspections and have accessed only excerpts of some independent inspections in some court rulings, he said.

Samsung says it has never “intentionally” blocked workers from accessing information and that it is transparent about all chemicals it is required to disclose to the government. It said in a statement that information disclosure was never “illegally prevented.”

“We have a right to protect our information from going to a third party,” Baik Soo-ha, a Samsung Electronics vice president, told the AP.

Government policies have generally favored Samsung and other corporate conglomerates that powered South Korea’s rapid industrialization after the 1950-53 Korean War.

Officials say corporate interests take priority, evaluating trade secrets claims is difficult, and they fear being sued for sharing data against a company’s will.

“We have to keep secrets that belong to our clients,” said Yang Won-baek, of the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, or KOSHA.

Samsung has dominated memory-chip makers since the early 1990s. Toxic and often carcinogenic materials are commonly used to produce semiconductors, mobile phones and LCDs, including arsenic, acetone, methane, sulfuric acid and lead.

The worker safety group Banolim has documented more than 200 cases of serious illnesses including leukemia, lupus, lymphoma and multiple sclerosis among former Samsung semiconductor and LCD workers. Seventy-six have died, most in their 20s and 30s.

Worker safety advocates want South Korea’s courts and government to more flexibly interpret links between workplace conditions and diseases, since exact causes of many factory workers’ ailments are unknown. They also want thorough disclosure of workplace hazards.

Since 2008, 56 workers have sought occupational safety compensation from the government. Only 10 won compensation, most after years of court battles. Half the remaining claims were rejected and half remain under review.

Families of the victims often deplete their savings and sell their homes to pay hospital bills. Some workers end up incapacitated and unable to work.

Left with few options, more than 100 families accepted a compensation plan Samsung proposed last year, but many rejected it.

Hwang Sang-gi said Samsung offered him 1 billion won ($864,000) in 2007 to not pursue a case over his daughter’s death. He said no, founded Banolim and joined four former Samsung semiconductor workers suffering from various blood cancers in filing for workers’ compensation.

In 2014, seven years after Yu-mi’s death, an appeals court affirmed a lower court’s finding of “a significant causal relationship” between Yu-mi’s leukemia and her likely exposure to benzene, other chemicals and ionized radiation at work. Hwang Sang-gi received nearly $175,000 from the government.

Samsung’s CEO issued a formal apology in 2014, though some ailing workers consider it inadequate. The company promised to give workers documents they need to seek compensation, and this year launched a committee to oversee independent inspections of some factories.

Workers and their bereaved families want more a complete apology and changes in how compensation is awarded. Hwang and other campaigners regularly protest outside Samsung’s Gangnam complex. They view suing Samsung as a poor option; the standard of proof would be higher than in workers’ compensation cases, and they couldn’t seek punitive damages.

They also say it remains difficult to get details about working conditions.

Labor ministry official Goo Ja-hwan said the government usually accepts companies’ requests to keep details secret. “We cannot evaluate whether things that companies have hidden as secrets are real trade secrets or not,” he said.

Baskut Tuncak, the U.N. special rapporteur on hazardous substances and waste, said in a phone interview that such policies don’t protect workers.

“That simply allows their abuse of the system where information about hazardous substances is hidden from the public from victims under claims of confidentiality,” he said.

Seoul city starts providing allowances to young job seekers

original article

#unemployment #basic_income #Seoul_city #MoWH_opposing

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) — The Seoul city government started a controversial program that provides allowances to thousands of young job seekers Wednesday, which it said aims to help people maintain basic living standards while they try to find work.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said it has selected a total of 3,000 applicants and will provide them with 500,000 won (US$448) per month, for up to six months.

The plan, which has been opposed by the central government, is designed to support people from ages 19 to 29, who have lived in the capital city for a year or more and work less than 30 hours a week. Enrolled students cannot apply for the program.

The city government said it has already provided the allowance to 2,831 applicants, who have signed agreements with the metropolitan government, earlier on Wednesday.

More than 6,000 people submitted applications in July. The city government said the final list is based on their income level, period of unemployment and whether they have families to support.

The metropolitan government has allocated some 9 billion won to test run the plan this year before expanding it in the years to come.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare, meanwhile, immediately issued a correction order to revoke the city government’s decision.

The ministry stressed that the allowance plan does not root out the fundamental cause of the high unemployment rate and that it will only lead to more side effects down the line, including serious moral hazards among young job seekers.

“There is no safeguard to keep tabs on where people spend the free handouts,” a government source said.

The unemployment rate for young people aged from 15 to 29 reached 10.3 percent last month, up from May’s 9.7 percent, according to the report compiled by Statistics Korea.

Students study at a local college library in Seoul on July 13, 2016, following the high unemployment rate for young adults in the country amid a protracted economic slowdown. The unemployment rate for young people, aged from 15 to 29, reached 10.3 percent last month, up from May’s 9.7 percent, according to the report compiled by Statistics Korea. (Yonhap)

[Negotiations on the Minimum Wage in 2017] “Change the Minimum Wage to the Best Wage” Young People Take to the Streets in Hongdae as June 28 Deadline for Minimum Wage Approaches

“Change the Minimum Wage to the Best Wage” Young People Take to the Streets in Hongdae as June 28 Deadline for Minimum Wage Approaches

#minimum_wage #youth_union #part-time_workers_union #Korea

Minimum wage in Korea on 2015 is 6,030Won(5.4$) per hour, and the Unions are claiming for 10,000Won(9$).

Are we here to receive 6,030 won?” “No!”
“Are we here to receive 6,500 won? 7,000 won? 8,000 won?” “No! No! No!”
“How much are we here to receive?” “Ten thousand won!”

On June 26, two days before next year’s minimum wage is fixed, a “festival” was held all day in the streets near Hongik University (Hongdae) in Mapo-gu, Seoul demanding the minimum wage of 10,000 won.

Lively, but Desperate for “10,000 Won”: Members of the Part-time Workers Union are dressed in costumes symbolizing part-time workers demanding a minimum wage of 10,000 won in the streets near Hongik University (Hongdae) in Mapo-gu, Seoul on June 26. Seo Seong-il

Members of the Part-time Workers Union marched around Hongdae carrying a speaker on a wagon. The members shouted slogans like, “I want to eat barbecue pork with the minimum wage of 10,000 won,” to the beat of the dance music flowing out of the speaker. The citizens walking by waved and the part-time workers in nearby shops applauded.

The union members transformed into products often found in convenience stores where many of the members work. They wore costumes, turning into triangular rice wrapped in sea laver, instant cup noodles, French fries and soda cans. Some even wore the uniforms they where when working at convenience stores and fast food restaurants.

Jeong Min-ju, 20, said, “The wages of 20 million part-time workers cannot be decided by 27 people in a private meeting. The minimum wage should be decided at the National Assembly.”
Seo Yeong-gyo, 23, also said, “The nine CEOs (representatives of employers) on the Minimum Wage Committee argue that 1 million won a month is enough to cover the minimum cost of living, but why do people who have never lived on the minimum cost of living decide the minimum wage?”

The Youth Union also organized the 2016 Minimum Wage Festival this day. Union members shouted, “Change the minimum wage to the best wage!”
They prepared events like “Take a Picture with His Majesty, the Minimum Wage” and “Get Shaved Ice by Shattering the Frozen Minimum Wage.” One citizen who tried Jegichagi (a traditional Korean game) to Raise the Minimum Wage only managed to kick the jegi twice. But union members smiled and said, “The minimum wage rises by 10 won each time you kick the jegi. You raised the minimum wage by 20 won; you are beautiful.”

Amelsa, 19, an American student in Korea said, “The minimum wage in New York is $15 and I earned $19 an hour working part-time. The minimum wage in South Korea is too low. I agree that they should receive at least 10,000 won.”
The Minimum Wage Festival lasted until the evening. At stay.round.GEE in Seogyo-dong, a “talk” concert was held with over a hundred people attending the event. There, former lawmaker Eun Soo-mi said, “I hope that the minimum wage increases to 10,000 won and that the young people can spread their wings.”

This year’s minimum wage was 6,030 won an hour. On a monthly basis, this adds up to the minimum monthly wage of 1.2 million won. This is less than the average monthly expenses of a one-person household (1.6 million won) of an urban worker released by Statistics Korea in 2014, and is also less than the monthly living expenses of a single worker (1,506,179 won) in 2015 according to a survey by the Minimum Wage Committee.
The plenary session of the Minimum Wage Committee was held on five occasions to discuss the major issues including the minimum wage, but the committee members have failed to narrow their differences.

Labor demands an hourly 10,000 won as the minimum wage for 2017, but the management is requesting that the government freeze the minimum wage at 6,030 won, the same as this year. The committee will hold the sixth and seventh plenary session on June 27-28 and review and determine next year’s minimum wage.

[Editorial] We Detest the Misogynic Gaze on the Murder of a Woman Near Gangnam Station (Kyung-hyang)

[Editorial] We Detest the Misogynic Gaze on the Murder of a Woman Near Gangnam Station 
#hate_crime #misogyny #gender
Society’s reaction to the murder of a twenty-something woman by a man in his thirties in a bathroom near Gangnam Station in Seoul has been explosive. A temporary memorial has been installed at the subway station near the crime scene, and the chrysanthemums that citizens have brought form a pile that reaches higher than a person’s knees. On the outer walls of the subway station exit, hundreds of memos have been posted in memory of the victim while others criticize a society that discriminates against women. The Labor Party, the Green Party, and various women’s groups have released a series of statements and a candlelight vigil was organized last night. Women are pouring out their thoughts on misogyny intensifying in our society.

Candlelight Fills Gangnam Station Exit 10: On the evening of May 19, citizens remember the female victim of a murder in a unisex bathroom holding candles in front of Gangnam Station exit 10 in Seoul. Yi Jun-heon

Society is focusing on the latest case because the motive of the murder: misogyny. The suspect’s statement, “Women looked down on me” and the fact that he had waited over an hour for a woman to enter the unisex bathroom make it difficult to argue that misogyny was not the motive. When we think of whether the suspect would have attempted the crime against the male population if he had been slighted by men, the answer becomes clear. The suspect did not target the men who entered the bathroom that day. The police stressed the suspect’s history of being admitted to hospitals four times for schizophrenia. In other words, his misogyny and paranoia could be the manifestation of schizophrenia.

However, it is clear that this case is at least a murder targeting a specific group: women. Otherwise, there is no way to explain why countless women sympathize with the fear and remember the victim on the Internet and at Gangnam Station. Given that the perpetrator did not target an unspecified mass, but women in particular means it is unreasonable to call this a “random” crime. This incident revealed the reality in South Korean society, where a woman faced an outrageous death just because she was a woman. Any woman in this country could fall victim to a crime anytime and anywhere, and this incident shows that women must face fear in their daily lives. According to a survey by the Korean Women’s Development Institute, an overwhelming 98% of the perpetrators of violent crimes such as murder and robbery are men, while 84% of the victims are women. In a situation where the victim and perpetrator of a crime can be clearly distinguished by gender, the fear women have is indeed specific and realistic.

In the social context, what we must focus on is society’s perspective of this case, as well as the dangers this case reveals. The opposition stirring from one side of those who are busy remembering the victim and reflecting on existing views is problematic. They argue that we should not generalize the crime of a mentally ill person to a crime of misogyny. We can dismiss this as a controversial topic. But attempts to seek the motive of the murder in the way the woman was dressed and how much she had drunk is absurd. Treating this issue as a gender conflict and an issue of reverse discrimination against men is also a big problem. Some users of Ilbe, an online community of extreme right-wing conservatives, made gestures with their fingers and posted pictures of them tearing off the messages posted at Gangnam Station. Such patriarchal views that look down on women clearly show us where the hotbed of misogyny lies. The suspect in the latest case did not just fall from the sky. We must not deny the fact that the misogynic posts and sexist language overflowing on the Internet brought on this horrible crime. In a crime where the perpetrator had targeted the entire female community, a twenty-something woman was sacrificed. A society that cannot even denounce such sexual discrimination, which was the fundamental cause, is dangerous.

What we should despise is not just the act of murder triggered by misogyny. The misogynic eyes looking at the women remembering the victim are also something to detest. In this world, South Korea may be a society where women have a low social status, but even so, it is truly shameful that the discourse making groundless attacks on women is spreading in plain sight. We all need to reflect on how the South Korean society became so sick.

Seoul Metro under fire for continued accidents on subway tracks

Seoul Metro under fire for continued accidents on subway tracks

Published : 2016-05-29 16:35 Updated : 2016-05-29 17:25

Subway operator Seoul Metro came fire for lax safety after another worker died on Saturday from being trapped between a screen door separating the subway platform and the train on subway line No. 2. It was the third fatal accident of its kind to occur since 2013.

According to Gwangjin Police Station, the 19-year-old Kim, an employee of a company that Seoul Metro had subcontracted for door maintenance, had been repairing the platform screen door at Guui Station on Saturday evening.

He was working by himself, with neither supervisor nor any signboard to notify approaching train operators.

The authorities have examined surveillance camera recordings and are set to summon related officials for questioning. The probe will be jointly handled by the Ministry of Employment and Labor’s special judicial police and the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency.

Clear screen doors were first set up in 2007 at subway stations in Seoul to prevent people from jumping onto the tracks in suicide attempts. The doors, however, have often caused casualties as they frequently malfunction.

In January 2013, a 38-year-old screen door maintenance worker surnamed Shim, was fatally hit by a train while he was on the tracks to fix a screen door at Seongsu Station. In August 2014, another employee surnamed Cho from the same company died from a similar accident at Gangnam Station. Both employees were carrying out the task alone when the accidents happened.

Last year, Seoul Metro established a safety manual for subway maintenance subcontractors, instructing workers to work in pairs and forbidding them from going on the tracks during subway operation hours.

However, such requirements are often overlooked by workers due to the limited number of workers as well as urgent calls by subway operators to quickly fix screen doors for passengers’ convenience.

“We deeply regret lax safety management over screen door maintenance involving our subcontracted companies. We apologize to the bereaved families and citizens who use Seoul Metro,” said Jeong Su-young, head of Seoul Metro’s infrastructure management department, on Saturday.

He added that Seoul Metro will change its screen door maintenance company from the current subcontractor to a city-run subsidiary company, starting from August, citing “workforce efficiency and strengthened safety.” It also said it would establish new requirements for screen door repair.

By Kim Da-sol(

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