Please stop the death of the field trainees
Please stop the death of the field trainees
  • Baek Su-min
  • 승인 2021.12.22 22:40
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▲ A rally to commemorate an accident of Hong Jung-woon in downtown Seoul (Source=Newspim)
▲ A rally to commemorate an accident of Hong Jung-woon in downtown Seoul (Source=Newspim)

 On October 6, Hong Jung-woon, a specialized high school student who went on-field training, died at a training site. As he passed away at the young age of nineteen, assembly protests gathered and members of the Labor Education Movement Headquarters from specialized high school unions across the country expressed anger and sadness over the unfortunate accident of Hong Jung-woon. From the past to the present, there have been constant deaths of field trainees people need to remember. This remains a problem that Korean society needs to solve.

 The most well-known accident that occurred before, similar to the practice site incident of Hong Jung-woon, is the incident of Lee Min-ho that took place in Jeju Island. This accident occurred on November 19, 2017, about four years before the accident of Hong Jung-woon. Lee Min-ho died after being pushed by a press machine while conducting on-site training at a bottled water manufacturer. According to media reports, it was found that the phrase in the agreement that the employer assigned a person in charge of guiding the field training faithfully was not observed. 

 Since then, due to repeated accidents of field trainees, the Ministry of Education has prepared various supplementary measures focusing on “learning-oriented field training”. Unlike previous field training centered on “labor”, it was literally intended to focus on “learning”. The main focus is to operate field training programs under the guidance of corporate field teachers and to check safety management. However, the learning-oriented field training officially deprived the right to work by setting in stone the status of the field trainee as not a worker. Not only the trainees were not protected by basic labor laws such as the minimum wage and the four major insurances, but they were also excluded from the management and supervision of the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

 Since the Ministry of Education failed to take into account the limitations of guaranteeing the labor rights, accidents leading to the death of students at the practice site were repeated. On October 6, another unfortunate incident happened again when Hong Jung-woon, a trainee, passed away in Yeosu. Hong Jung-woon died during a field practice while removing barnacles attached to the bottom of a boat at a yacht anchorage in Yeosu. The accident was caused by not only failing to comply with the relevant laws, such as banning under the age of nineteen and implementing groups of two people, but also ignoring the on-site practice standard contract that banned diving without safety management.

 Hence, this accident occurred due to instructions that violate the laws and systems of field training companies. It means that it is proved that it is urgent to establish a strong system responsible for the management and supervision of field training companies. Lim Un-young, vice chairman of the Korea Educational Federation, said, "There is definitely a limit on conducting on-site inspections by professors who lack understanding of the working field.” She also mentioned that “one labor teacher per class” should be designated by strengthening the school-only labor teacher system operated by each Office of Education. 

 A small number of specialized high school students argued that field training should be abolished as these disasters continued to repeat. However, Lee Sang-hyun, chairman of the Korea Federation of Rights for Specialized High School Students said “The abolition of field training cannot be a countermeasure. While maintaining field training at vocational high school, fundamental changes should be made in the direction of recognizing the workability of trainees.” Also, systematic labor education in schools will be an important task because it is impossible for trainees to recognize their unfairness on their own and to increase their ability to cope with unfair situations with one-time education currently being conducted.

▲ Signature of measures to prevent recurrence of accidents by field trainees (Source= National Labor Union of Specialized High School)
▲ Signature of measures to prevent recurrence of accidents by field trainees (Source= National Labor Union of Specialized High School)

 Due to the unfortunate accident ofHong Jung-woon, the National Labor Union of Specialized High School is implementing a "signing of measures to prevent a recurrence." As indicated in the signature, the Ministry of Employment and Labor should prepare management and supervision measures for field training companies to strengthen the selection, management, and supervision of participating companies. Above all, field training companies must not regard field training students as cheap labors.

 As field training has the definition of "various job experiences and learning" to acquire knowledge, skills,and attitudes necessary for job performance in relation to career paths, corporate field trainee managers should focus on acting as the middle rolefor students. Remembering the deathsis the beginning of problem-solvinganda driving force for change in society.Since it is up to the survivors to rememberthe dead, Catholic University Forum(CUF) hopes that everyone, including CUK, will remember the deaths of field trainees who died silently so that the incidentsof field trainees such as Hong Jung-woon will not be repeated.

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