Many Koreans were angered by a recent TV program that showed cars standing in the way of an ambulance carrying a woman who had been critically wounded in a traffic accident. It took more than 30 minutes for the ambulance to arrive at a nearby hospital.
The pity is that it would probably not have been the case that, in the same situation, all the TV watchers would have behaved in the right way and made room for the emergency vehicle.
According to a report submitted this week to a lawmaker by the National Emergency Management Agency, the percentage of fire engines that arrived at the scene of a fire within five minutes was 58.5 percent in August last year, a sharp drop from 72.1 percent a year earlier. Considering overall traffic volume declined slightly in Seoul and other major cities across the country, the increasing difficulties faced by firefighters rushing to the scene were attributed mainly to cars refusing to yield or illegally parked vehicles.
The delayed arrivals of ambulances and other emergency vehicles have resulted in an increasing number of casualties and property losses. The proportion of fires or other incidents that led to casualties rose from 4.2 percent in 2011 to 5.1 percent in 2012 and 5.2 percent in the first eight months of last year, according to the NEMA report. The average amount of property damage from a fire doubled from 5.84 million won ($5,480) to 11.57 million won over the cited period.
It is deplorable and worrisome that Korean citizens have become increasingly insensitive to the need to abide by basic rules that keep everyday life safe and stable.
In January, President Park Geun-hye’s administration granted special pardons to nearly 6,000 people convicted of minor and livelihood-related crimes and reduced penalties for an additional 2.88 million traffic violators. It said at the time that the measure was aimed at helping ease difficulties for ordinary people and would not affect its emphasis on keeping law and order.
But minor offenses should also be dealt with sternly, as letting them go unpunished would also threaten the social order as much as other grave crimes over the long term.
All Korean citizens need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they are ready to obey minor rules before pointing fingers at major social problems and political scandals.