Fire officials check an exploded facility at a POSCO factory in Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province, on Nov. 24. Photo courtesy of South Jeolla Province Fire Department

Almost 10 died under Chairman Choi’s leadership

Korea’s largest steelmaker POSCO faces another deadly accident at its Gwangyang plant, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul, where an explosion killed three people this week.

The explosion took place with a roaring sound and a blaze near a blast furnace to cost the three lives, according to officials of the South Jeolla Province Fire Department.

The accident leads to criticism because POSCO has vowed to prevent the recurrence of such lethal mishaps after four contract workers died due to a nitrogen leak at the firm’s factory.

In particular, POSCO Chairman Choi Jeong-woo held an event of promising to ensure its workers’ safety just after his inauguration midway through 2018.

Toward that end, the world’s No. 5 steel company beefed up safety education and established a dedicated department, which is in charge of safety.

However, POSCO’s trade union said that almost 10 died under Chairman Choi’s stewardship.

A worker died after being stuck in a crane in early 2019.

Last December, five employees were injured in an explosion at the Gwangyang plant of POSCO, and a fire took place at POSCO’s mill this June to destroy part of the 500-square-meter factory.

The steelmaker’s affiliate of POSCO Engineering and Construction is also known as an accident-prone firm.

For example, a total of 10 POSCO E&C employees died in 2018 due to industrial accidents, the highest death toll among domestic builders, government data showed.

“The deadly mixture of dilapidated facilities and drastic reduction of the staff keeps causing accidents,” POSCO trade union’s Director Kim Hyung-joong said.

“POSCO employees and contract workers feel great anxiety. Some fear to work. POSCO should do something right away. We made many suggestions, but the management refuses to accept.”