“Does it make sense to ask the bereaved firefighters to reveal the cause and effect of the death at work? Do we want to work hard for the nation?" asked the incumbent firefighter. Firefighters try to save other people's lives at the risk of losing their own, but with old equipment and small repairs, they are carrying out their tasks with just a sense of duty. Take the case of Lee Jung-ryeol, a firefighter who died at home after having completed a fire drill. After four days of high-strength training, which involved carrying a large hose up and down a set of stairs at a smoke-filled fire site, Lee returned home and collapsed. Lee had fought fires for 14 years, however, his family has yet to receive compensation because he has not yet been recognized for his duty.
As everyone knows, firefighters struggle to save lives in the most dangerous places. Of course, their equipment must be perfect to make sure they can rescue people safely. However, a report from the office of lawmaker Chin Young has shown that about one-fifth of public equipment, such as pump cars and water tanks, have passed their useful lives. In many cases, firefighters who were injured on the job due to poor equipment were not able to apply for compensation for the industrial accident they suffered. Worst still, bereaved families whose loved ones died due to equipment failures were likewise unable to apply for compensation on behalf of their deceased family members. This is because of a complicated application process. Victims must submit their application to the civil servants’ pension agency through the fire department. They must prove the injury-related situation happened at work, by providing evidence such as statements from fellow firefighters who worked with them. All of these materials must be prepared by injured firefighters or by their bereaved family members. First of all, the biggest problem is that the victim is responsible for proving the cause and effect of the firefighters' death and their work. It is not easy for victims or bereaved families without legal or medical knowledge to demonstrate a causal relationship between injury and work. In addition, if a person who knows the most about the work environment dies, it will be more difficult for the bereaved to prove the working environment.
The Republic of Korea places a duty on the bereaved families of firefighters to prove the disaster of firefighters who died due to their work without paying for proper equipment. The firefighter is the first one to arrive on the disaster scene and the last one to leave. But this sort of heroism cannot happen if firefighters cannot protect themselves. It is an obvious problem not to provide a proper working environment for firefighters. Firefighters have rights too. We can and must do a better job of supporting our firefighters, especially those who suffer injury, or even death, fighting disasters on our behalf. < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >