South Korea announces projects to improve subway safety
July 9, 2003
SEOUL — More than 5,800 subway cars throughout the country will be refurbished with fireproof interiors.
South Korea’s Ministry of Construction and Transportation announced last week that the move is in response to a fatal fire in February that killed 192 riders and injured 147.
Eighty-nine projects are scheduled over the next four years to make trains safer and reduce accidents, the ministry said, adding it will spend about $2.6 billion through 2007 to improve subway and train safety.
The ministry, which convened a safety plan team in March, also said this week that by 2005, all materials in subway cars will have been tested for smoke and toxicity; only those not flammable will be allowed.
About 275 people are killed annually in subway or railway accidents here, the agency stated, adding that it wants to reduce accidents by 30 percent over the next five years.
In February, Kim Dae-han, 56, whom police described as mentally ill, ignited a flammable substance in a carton on a subway car at a Taegu subway station. As the seats burned, flames quickly spread to other cars.
Officials will install a system in which subway trains stop automatically when there is an accident in another station. Some subway cars have only emergency bells; the ministry will retrofit those with intercom systems to better communicate with passengers.
New subway cars also will have closed-circuit television cameras, the agency stated. Fire extinguishers will be increased from two to four in each car, it said.
— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.