Lunar New Year is a dangerous season for postmen

Posted on : 2014-01-28 10:59 KST Modified on : 2014-01-28 10:59 KST
With a glut of packages to deliver, drivers have to work seven days a week, risking their lives on icy roads,
 Jan. 21. The time around the Lunar New Year holiday
Jan. 21. The time around the Lunar New Year holiday

By Bang Jun-ho, staff reporter

A postman surnamed Moon, from Geumcheon Post Office in Seoul, is now laid on a hospital bed. He has been working as a postman for 20 years now, so he was due for an injury this year around the Lunar New Year holiday, an especially busy time due to all the mail and packages that need to be delivered. Three of his toes were broken when he fell off his motorcycle while making a delivery last December. The doctor told him to stay in bed for three months, but Moon, 49, said, “I feel sorry for my coworkers… they will have to cover for me while I’m gone.” He seemed uncomfortable. Moon spoke half in jest to his coworkers who visited him, saying, “Survive through this winter”.

Moon’s coworker, Jung, 49, said, “I have to deliver over 100 packages today. I almost slipped on an icy road this morning. I feel sorry for my injured coworker, but we have to cover for him without any additional manpower. We’re going crazy.” Another deliveryman, Lee, 41, said, “Even though it snowed yesterday, I worked until 9 pm. The number of packages that need to be delivered is increasing whereas we’re short of hands. It’s unfortunate but there’s nothing more we can do.”

A year ago, Moon had to deliver packages with a bandage around his midsection. He slipped on some stairs while working, then after that had to deal with chest pain whenever he lifted something heavy. He was diagnosed with a bone fracture. The bandage didn’t ease the pain much, but management at his company said he’d had to keep working because they were short on labor. During last New Year’s special delivery season, Moon wore the bandage from 5am to 11pm and didn’t get a single day off. No matter what, he had to make all his deliveries.

Korea Post designated January 17 to 30 as a New Year’s special delivery season. An estimated 13.7 million packages will be delivered, 16% more than last year. Given that there are 18,000 postmen in South Korea, each has to deliver an average of 761 packages, more than 54 packages per day. Korea Post put in 2,100 additional workers, but most of them are working in the post office, sorting packages.

The heavy workload leads to many accidents. In Hampyeong, South Jeolla Province, a postman in his 50s, Seo, lost his consciousness on January 4 when he had a stroke while making a delivery. A postman from Hamyang Post Office in South Gyeongsang Province, Kim, in his mid 40s, severely hurt his head in a motorcycle accident while working on January 6. Both men are still comatose.

Kim Dong-geun from Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements said, “Two postmen have already been critically injured in January. This is because Korea Post declined to accept Civil Society Organization and the deliverymen’s proposal.” Last December, a group of civic activists and postmen demanded Korea Post provide additional workers, and exempt postmen from having to make deliveries during heavy rain or snow, and when it’s colder than -7 degrees Celsius outside. Nothing has been changed yet.

The group of postmen and civic activists held a press conference on January 21 to announce their plan to accuse both the Korea Post President Kim Joon-ho, and the Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning Choi Moon-ki of violating health regulations. They filed a report to the Ministry of Employment and Labor under Article 24 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The Article stipulates, “Business owners shall take measures necessary for the prevention of the health problems caused in operating their businesses, especially in health disorders caused by simple repetitive tasks or tasks that require excessive physical labor.” They submitted their demands to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, seeking special monitoring of Korea Post.

A certified labor attorney from Solidarity for Workers’ Health, Yoo Sung-kyu, said at the press conference, “It is nearly impossible for postmen working over 80 hours a week to remain healthy. We are trying to press charges against Korea Post, as they’re not willing to address the current situation. We are also asking that the Ministry of Employment and Labor provide assistance in monitoring and supervising Korea Post.”

 until Jan. 30
until Jan. 30


Translated by Kim Hae-yoon, Hankyoreh English intern


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