Korea Can Learn from Hungary's Common Sense

      June 07, 2019 13:20

      Hungary's interior minister has refused request from the Korean government to send divers into the wreck of the pleasure boat Hableány to search for the bodies of missing Korean passengers before it is raised, saying his country does not want divers "to risk their lives unnecessarily." The underwater current is more than twice faster than the safety limit for divers, and the boat is more than 70 years old, so its wooden frame could collapse, making it a potential death trap. The Korean government only grudgingly accepted the decision.

      Most people probably wish the divers would go out of their way to find as many of the missing passengers as possible while the boat is in the water. But as the minister said, protecting the lives of search divers is equally important. Common sense has been utterly ignored by Korean public sentiment. Hungarian divers said their Korean counterparts came out of the water gasping with fatigue but still tried to go right back into the water. That means they constantly face deadly risks. If the Hableány had sunk in Korea, authorities might have tried to do anything to find the bodies of the missing at the expense of others' safety.

      Warrant Officer Han Joo-ho and civilian diver Lee Kwang-wook lost their lives searching for survivors after the sinking of the corvette Cheonan in 2010 and the April 2014 ferry disaster. At the time divers were not allowed to rest properly before going back into the water, and some self-proclaimed expert even recommended sending a diving bell into the roaring ocean currents, a totally untested method.

      Korean authorities can learn a lesson from the Hungarian authorities' calm and firm response. Safety rules and common sense must not be thrown to the wind for the sake of public sentiment, because the damage will only get worse.

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