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Courier dead in apparent suicide over financial difficulties

A delivery man took his own life in Busan early Tuesday, police and a courier labor union said, as apparent deaths from overwork and poor working conditions among couriers have surfaced as a social issue.

The man, 50, working for Logen Logistics Co., died of suicide at around 3 a.m., some 30 minutes after he sent a handwritten note to his colleague via cell phone messenger.

In the letter that starts with "I feel victimized," the man, whose identity was withheld, said he had been struggling financially and complained about overwork and mistreatment from his company, such as having been ordered to work in extreme heat and verbal insults being hurled at him.

The police said the man had been sharing difficulties from work with his colleges and had often expressed his economic hardships.

Not including the latest case, 10 courier company workers have died so far this year, mostly in cases believed to be related to overwork, according to an advocacy group, as the new coronavirus outbreak triggered a surge in online shopping and parcel volumes.

During a parliamentary audit of affiliated agencies of the Ministry of Labor, Rep. Yang Yi Won-young from the ruling Democratic Party said the dead courier paid a hefty premium to work as a courier and was paying a debt of around 1.2 million won ($1,052) a month. He earned less than 2 million won per month, she said.

"The demand for parcel delivery will continue to increase as people prefer contactless shopping. The Environment and Labor Committee should make an effort to prevent deaths of delivery men," she said.

On Monday, the government said it will inspect major package delivery companies to check whether they abide by safety measures, including the prevention of overwork.

"We will conduct emergency inspections of 40 major sub-terminals and 400 branches of CJ Logistics, Hanjin Express and others regarding safety and health measures aimed at preventing health problems, such as overwork, from Oct. 21 to Nov. 13," Labor Minister Lee Jae-kap said during a government meeting on employment and labor issues.

The ministry plans to interview some 6,000 delivery workers contracted with those offices.

"The government will take appropriate legal actions if violations are confirmed," he added. (Yonhap)