[사설]Demolition of illegal buildings that threaten security

On the afternoon of the 31st, at the site of the Itaewon disaster in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, the protruding structures of the hotel and the surrounding buildings can be seen. By Hoe-seong Yang, yohan@donga.com staff reporter

It has been confirmed that the Hamilton Hotel pub located on World Food and Culture Street, which is connected to the site of the Halloween disaster in Itaewon, has extended the terrace towards the road without permission. A Halloween event booth was also placed without permission in front of the pub in the hotel annex, opposite the pub. Including this, six buildings near the accident site were illegally expanded. There was also one unlicensed building.

According to the building code, the road must be at least 4m wide. However, as the terraces and booths overhang the road by around 1m, the width of some parts of the World Food and Culture Street, which was originally 5m, was reduced to 3m. As the road narrowed, the streets were packed with people, making it difficult to move. Even if the citizens at the scene of the accident tried to evacuate, it was difficult to get to the already saturated World Food and Culture Street. At events with large crowds, the smooth flow of traffic is a basic safety measure. However, it is inevitable that illegally installed facilities created a bottleneck and increased the extent of the damage.

80,000 to 100,000 people visited Itaewon during the Halloween festival in previous years as well. One million people also visited the Global Village Festival held in Itaewon from the 15th to the 16th of last month. As it is a place where large crowds often gather, special attention must be paid to the safety of pedestrians. However, Yongsan-gu confirmed the unauthorized extension of the terrace in May last year and imposed an enforcement fee, but did not demolish it. The hotel also did not implement corrective measures. It is difficult to avoid criticism that the area and the hotel have neglected the safety of citizens.

According to the Building Act, illegal structures that significantly disrupt road traffic or impair public safety can be demolished immediately. The purpose is that the building should not interfere with the public interest. There is also the problem of unauthorized extension buildings being vulnerable to safety, such as the 2019 Gwangju club collapse accident where two people died. The government and all local governments must immediately carry out an all-in-one inspection of illegal buildings and remove all areas found to be at risk. Illegal buildings should no longer threaten the safety of citizens.

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