Workers Driven To Death in Heavy Rain1)
On August 6, three ships capsized near Uiam Dam in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. South Korea had been experiencing heavy rains for weeks, so the floodgates of most dams were opened. Uiam Dam was one of them. On the day of the tragedy, the dam opened 9 of its 15 floodgates and was discharging 10,000 tons of water per second downstream. In addition, the current that day was stronger because of torrential rains of up to 100mm. As a result, the eight people aboard three separate ships, who were working to fix the artificial reef island drifting off Uiam Dam, were swept away by the strong current. The eight ship crew included five part-time workers, one Chuncheon City Hall official, one employee of a reef island management company, and one police officer. The artificial reef island established in June by Chuncheon City, at a cost of about 1.4 billion won, was aimed at improving the water quality of Uiam Lake. However, heavy rains damaged the island, so the three ships set out to fix it. With the strong currents, the ship captains decided to return to shore. It was at this time the ships sank. One crew member managed to swim ashore, but the other seven went missing. One was found later that same day, but the person died of cardiac arrest. Five others were later found dead. As of August 31, one person is still missing. According to the Gangwon Fire Department, firefighters, police officers, and Chuncheon City Hall staff have joined forces, 200 personnel, numerous ships and helicopters, in the search effort for the remaining missing person.
The day the accident occurred, Prime Minister Chung Syekyun visited Uiam Dam and said, ''I can't face the people who suffered from this tragedy,'' because it was not the first capsizing this year. Netizens also questioned why the ships were out on the rough waters in the first place with ''Who would voluntarily take their boat out on the river with the current so strong?'' Attention is now on whether Chuncheon City Hall had ordered the ships out to the island to make repairs. Chuncheon Mayor Lee Jaesoo responded to the accusation saying, ''We never gave such an order. We dissuaded it. The head of the department in charge took the staff to let the artificial reef island float away and not to go out to try and repair it.'' Nonetheless, bereaved families speculate there to have been a work order from Chuncheon City Hall. One bereaved family member disclosed the content of a KakaoTalk employee group chat that suggests a City Hall supervisor ordered staff to stay where the island is located and watch if the island is floated or not. This brought about two police raids of Chuncheon City Hall to search for information surrounding the accident. Bereaved families members of the missing said, ''Mayor Lee has clearly promised to investigate the incident and find out the truth so that this never happens again.'' Families hope the city deals with tragedy maturely. The truth must be known to the victims' families so that they understand why their family members went out to work in such horrid weather.
1) Park Suheok, ''Trying To Protect the Heart-Shaped Artificial Reef Island...Three Ships Were Overturned'', Hankyoreh, August 6, 2020