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Tragedy of the Society: It’s the Individual’s Fault
[Debate] How much of the Society's Responsibility a Tragedy?
[ Issue 134 Page 11 ] Wednesday, June 03, 2015, 20:46:05 Jung Wook Choi Staff Reporter jungwook.choi@kaist.ac.kr

On October 17, when the heartaches for the children who died in the “Sewol Ferry incident” have yet vanished, the ventilation grate in Pangyo collapsed, 16 people died on scene and 11 were severely injured. Major scale accidents like these haven’t been uncommon in the history of South Korea. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the history of Korea has been a history of disasters. The explosion in the Daegu metro railway system(1997), the collapse of the Sampung Department Store(1995), and the collapse of the Sungsu Bridge(1994) are only few of the major catastrophes that hit Korea. Were the unreported incidents in small villages and isolated places to be unveiled to the public, the total major and minor catastrophes of Korea would be uncountable. The outbreak of the accidents is an incident of the past; important acts may be to find the cause and prevent future hazardous actions in the future. So what’s the cause of all these catastrophes? I’m saying the fault lies with individuals.

Individuals’ actions determine whether accidents outbreak or not. Take the collapse of the Sampung Department Store for an example. The collapse of the building must mean there must have been a fault in the construction process. The construction engineers, individuals in this case, may have done their best in the construction process, but by all means they must have neglected cases that needed to be fixed or refined further just because they did not feel like it or because the whole fixing process was too burdensome to them. The mindset of disregarding one small fault might turn out to be okay in the end and not be noticed by others. This type of thinking is in fact the most dangerous type of thinking of individuals. Because the most important contributors of the building process thought this way, who are in fact the mainstream pioneers/leaders in our industry, the people following behind have no choice but to acknowledge and follow the orders that come from the higher section of the social ladder. Especially in Korea where the hierarchical system plays a major part in pretty much everywhere, the people being led by others are bound to act like their uppers. A small act of disregarding then constantly spreads out from person to person, and these similar individual thoughts get accepted as the norm and the standard of the society. Because other individuals do not frown upon the act of ones that disregard faulty, dangerous actions continue to get accepted, eventually stopping when a major accident occurs. Further problems occur after the outbreak of the accidents. Because a major accident has occurred, a normal aftermath would be to deeply regret about the incident and never repeat the same mistakes. But in reality, that’s not what happens. Individuals in charge believe that they were not “lucky” that one time and continue to disregard small faulty that needs to be corrected. As a result of this incident, unless the individuals’ mindsets and actions to fulfill an objective do not change, catastrophes do not end and continue to plague our country.

In the end, if the individuals do not take a deep moment to reflect on his/her actions, nothing can bring about change for the better. A brief look into the history, it has always been the individuals who brought about change, and individuals have formed ideas together to set the so-called standard of the society that people accept as the norm and as the “correct” judgment. The famous cause and effect theorem can also be applied in modern society’s scenario. It’s not a matter of people paying more attention to their actions and being responsible for their own tragedies. It would be ludicrous to blame people who are “suffering” from catastrophes just as it would be nonsense to say that a pedestrian on the sidewalk is at fault when a car accidentally hit him. Rather, it would be more correct to say that the endless catastrophes are the result of lame mindsets of individuals when getting the job done, especially in construction works. If we, as a whole, take one more moment to reflect on our thoughts, whether it may do harm or not to the society later on when the job is finally done, we know for sure not to neglect small faulty and form strict norms for tragedies to not happen.

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