On the 12th of September, earthquakes of magnitudes 5.1 and 5.8 occurred in succession at 7:44 and at 8:32 p.m. in Gyeongju. The 5.8 magnitude earthquake is one of the strongest since seismological observation began in 1978 in Korea. The next week, another earthquake measuring up to 4.5 occurred once more, and the possibility of big aftershock since then can’t be ignored. The casualties and property damage caused by this disaster were serious problems, but the more issued problem was “safety frigidity.” Safety frigidity means a phenomenon that people are insensitive to the danger that is near to them. Their situation is not that safe, but they think “We are fine.” or they have no common sense about safety, like safety precautions.
This 5.8 earthquake left serious damage, such as cracks in walls, dangling lights, and many injured people. Meanwhile, many schools in Yeongnam area required students do study hall sessions. Also, schools did not take safety measures like giving directions on how to evacuate to the schoolyard or hide their body under the desk. After this disaster, many people did not provide steps against such a danger and lived their everyday life as status quo. Moreover, there were some people who were interested in the fact that they felt the vibration of the quake, and so took the danger as entertainment.
Safety frigidity can be checked not only in people’s sense, but also in the system. When the earthquake occurred, people didn’t know the manual to cope with the situation and were in a state of confusion. Poor education resources are responsible for this situation to some degree. The Ministry of Education made “an emergency response manual in school” and distributed it to the regional Education Office in 2012. However, they printed out only about 500 copies, and the quake section covered only one page. Moreover, there was a manual about yellow dust where there should be about how to deal with the quake, and this fact was just uncovered recently. There were also problems in the notice from the Ministry of Public Safety and Security. The message to warn people of the disaster was sent 10 minutes later and the homepage couldn’t be accessed for two hours.
The government realized the magnitude of the problem and implemented a nationwide earthquake evacuation drill on the 19th of October. This training was conducted to minimize the damage of the disaster, especially earthquakes, by mastering the steps to deal with the quake. But, the number of participants was very small and there were some students who didn’t know where they had to evacuate. Even more, they didn’t know the fact that the evacuation was expected to be conducted. Chae Su-eok, who is the head of disaster response system, suggested, “Pursuing their own comfort is our tendency, the cause of safety frigidity that is prevalent in our society is human instinct. However, for the safety of every individual and community, this is the very moment that we should all work hard to straighten up the principle and the basis.”
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