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[Editorial] Noisy neighbors

Objective rules, mutual understanding solve problem

It is a belated step in the right direction for relevant government ministries to be working to set a limit on the amount of noise traveling between apartment floors, which has increasingly troubled many Koreans living in cramped housing conditions.

A group of housewives have participated in the project undertaken jointly by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to determine the specific decibel level that should not be exceeded. The new standard, which is to be applied in May, will be used as an objective guideline in the process of solving noise disputes at a state arbitration committee and in courts.

According to recent data compiled by a lawmaker, the number of complaints about noise from neighbors more than doubled from 7,021 in 2012 to 15,455 last year. What has complicated the disputes is the lack of clear and effective rules for regulating neighbor noise and compensating for distress with it.

In a country where more than 65 percent of its population lives in apartments, specific binding regulations for curbing noise traveling between floors should have been put in practice earlier. Sounds and vibrations from vehicles and construction sites are already subject to regulatory measures.

Procedures on coordinating environmental disputes refer to the levels of excessive neighbor noise, but no actual compensation based on these levels has been made so far. It should be noted that residents causing noise that disturbs neighbors face considerable fines or even eviction from their homes in Britain, Germany, the U.S. and other advanced nations.

It was fortunate that no fatal incidents involving noisy neighbors were reported across the nation during the Lunar New Year holiday last week, when families gathered to celebrate. In the same period a year ago, neighbor disputes over noise left two people dead and several others injured.

It would be ideal for neighbors to settle quarrels over noise through mutual dialogue and concessions. Unless one lives at the bottom or top floor of an apartment building, it is always possible that he or she is annoyed by noise from above and at the same time makes noise that bothers dwellers below.

But it may be too much to expect of apartment residents, who rarely communicate with one another under the anonymous living conditions, to resolve the problem in a smooth and reasonable manner.

In addition to implementing mandatory limits on noise, stricter construction rules should be enforced to stop sound traveling between different floors, subjecting builders to tougher punishment for violations. It may also be helpful to encourage apartment complexes across the country to include procedures for solving noise disputes in their self-management rules.

Koreans also need to recognize that they should be more adroit in controlling their hot tempers to live secure and harmonious lives in multiplex housing. The combination of impatient individuals and increasing neighborhood and social conflicts has led to a rise in the number of crimes committed out of anger.

Cramped housing may be making Koreans more short-tempered. Under these circumstances, however, they are all the more required to show the wisdom of mutual understanding and accommodation toward one another.