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Building collapse in Gyeongju sparks controversy over its cause

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Published : 2014-02-19 09:45
Updated : 2014-02-19 10:08

(Yonhap)

Public uproar is mounting over the university‘s alleged late response and irresponsibility after the unexpected building collapse that left 10 people dead and about 100 injured on Monday in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

Ten people were confirmed dead with 105 people injured after the ceiling of the resort gymnasium, which was being used as an auditorium, caved in at 9:15 p.m. at the Mauna Ocean Resort in Gyeongju.

Heavy snow is thought to be the main cause behind the accident, but Koreans are pointing the finger at the university.

Some 1,000 students attended a freshman welcome event organized by the student council at the Busan University of Foreign Studies.
 
(Yonhap)

A father of a deceased student, only identified by his surname Kim, burst out crying and vented outrage about the late response of the university. “They say my daughter died. Why didn’t the university contact me?”

Kim heard about the accident while watching TV that night, but never thought that his beloved child would be one of the dead.

He thought his daughter was too “excited” to reply to his text message asking how she was doing. “I didn‘t even see my daughter’s face when I went work early that day,” he said in tears.

Another parent who lost her 18-year-old middle child cried out, “I received a all from the university at around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, six hours after the accident.”

“I heard the news from a friend. What did the university do at the time?” she added. 

(Yonhap)

She also posed a question over the responsibility and sense of safety of the university. The university reportedly did not even visit the site in advance despite the news reports of heavy snowfalls and sent only three staff to oversee more than 1,000 students.

However, the university is pinning blame on the students who “pushed for” the event that the university had banned.

An official at the university said, “The student council went ahead with the event by collecting fees from the students participating in the welcome party.”

“Without a big enough budget, it seems like the students looked for a cheap accommodation such as pre-engineered building, leading to the accident.” 

Meanwhile, Chung Hae-lin, the president of the university, issued an apology on its website. “I express my condolences to the students who passed away in this catastrophe and wish for a rapid recovery for those injured.” The school made clear that it will assume all responsibilities for the affected students.

As of 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, the search ended and the injured had been transferred to hospitals in the nearby city of Ulsan, according to local police officials.

Amid growing speculation that the collapsed building was authorized despite its failure to meet safety standards, the government pledged to launch a fact-finding probe and to carry out a thorough safety check on all kinds of facilities to find out the exact cause for the collapse.

By Ock Hyun-ju, Intern reporter (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)

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