Lee calls for greater consciousness of public safety
President Lee Myung-bak called Monday for greater consciousness of public safety, saying South Korea still sees too many people die or get hurt in accidents and disasters compared with advanced nations.
"Various disaster-related statistics make us still ashamed to say that we are on the threshold of becoming an advanced country," Lee said during his biweekly radio address.
As of 2010, the annual death toll from industrial accidents, traffic accidents and fires exceeded 10,000 and the overall economic loss reached 32 trillion won (US$27.3 billion). Last year witnessed more than 340,000 people injured due to traffic accidents, Lee said.
"Compared with major countries in the world, Korea clearly lags far behind," he said.
The death rate from traffic accidents in South Korea was 120 per million people, three times higher than that of Britain and Japan. The number was the highest among the OECD countries except for Greece, Lee said.
The death toll from industrial accidents was nine per 100,000 workers, which was also the highest barring Turkey and Mexico. And the number of people who commit suicide annually is approximately 15,000, the highest among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, he said.
"Whether disasters happen by natural causes or by human errors, damage can be reduced considerably if we are prepared for any contingency and respond accordingly," Lee said.
As an example of such efforts, Lee cited a project to refurbish the country's four major rivers in a way that prevents flooding and preserves water resources. Since the project was completed last year, Lee said flood damage that recurred consistently every summer has been greatly curtailed.
"We cannot become a truly advanced leading nation solely based on the size of the population or national income," he said. "A genuine advanced nation is one in which every citizen can lead a life in a safe environment." (Yonhap)