In the wake of the collapse of an HDC Hyundai Development apartment building under construction in Gwangju in January, the government is pushing for legislation that would allow it to hand out stronger penalties against companies for poor construction.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Monday revealed plans for a “one-strike, you’re out” policy that would allow authorities to rescind the company’s construction license if three or more people die as a result of negligent construction. The same punishment would apply in a case of five workplace fatalities or more, the ministry said.
The policy would prohibit companies from registering for a new construction license for the next five years, according to the ministry.
The company’s construction license could also be revoked if it is found to have two cases of poor construction within five years. In such cases, the company will not be able to apply for a construction license for three years.
Under existing regulations, companies found to be accountable for poor construction have only faced suspension orders lasting between two and eight months. The ministry said the planned level of punishment would impose a business suspension of four to 12 months if the company is blamed for poor construction, regardless of casualties.
“In order to prevent accidents similar to the collapse of the (Gwangju apartment), an accident that cannot be understood in common sense, we will strictly respond to poor construction with zero tolerance,” said Kwon Hyuk-jin, director general for urban policy at the ministry.
Regarding the collapse at HDC’s construction site in Gwangju that killed six, the ministry requested the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the municipal authority in charge of HDC, to impose the most severe penalty against the real estate developer. The highest level of punishment is the cancellation of the construction license or one-year business suspension.
As the Seoul authorities had previously said they would aim to carry out the authoritative measures within six months upon receiving the request from the Land Ministry, the final level of punishment against HDC is expected to be determined before the end of September.
Although HDC did not release an official statement regarding the ministry’s request for the most severe penalty, a company official said that the firm will diligently take part in the hearing procedure and try its best to restore trust.
Meanwhile, police announced on the same day that disobedience with construction rules and delinquency are responsible for the Gwangju collapse, citing three main causes.
According to police, the making of the 39th floor was changed without proper review, so it put more weight on the floor and the builders did not set up enough support fixtures on the 36th to 38th floors. Police also found that there was insufficient quality control of the concrete used for construction.
The Gwangju Metropolitan Police Agency said all three parties of HDC, subcontractors and the construction inspection company were accountable for the three causes of the collapse. So far, police have booked 20 people on charges of negligent homicide and violations of construction and occupational safety laws.