“My 6-month-old white-collar son, why did you have to hide behind a forklift you shouldn’t have been driving?”

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In early April, a large cherry blossom festival was held at Gyeongpo Lake in Gangneung City, Gangwon Province. At the first cherry blossom festival in four years after COVID-19, many young people took pictures, laughed and chatted with each other, but Cho Mo-jo, 60, a resident of Gangneung, walked by with her son’s memento, a hat, pressed to her head. “It was hard for me to look at the smiling faces of young people who are like my children,” said Cho, who we met at the Yeongdong office of labor law firm Chamter in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on April 11.

Cho’s 29-year-old son died in a forklift accident at 1:38 p.m. on March 27, just before the cherry blossom festival, at the Icheon distribution center of Dongwon Logistics, a logistics affiliate of Dongwon Group. It had been six months since he joined the company as a full-time clerical worker after a tough job search. While driving from Gangneung to Icheon after receiving a call from his son’s friend who worked at the same center, Cho received a call from a doctor saying that his son had died.

He had been in an accident downhill in front of a warehouse a short distance from the center. He was returning to the center after dropping off a return shipment at the warehouse. The forklift was traveling downhill when it hit a curb and tipped over. My son was crushed by the forklift and died of his injuries.

After his son’s sudden death, Ms. Zhao wanted to know how the accident happened. The company hadn’t explained the cause and circumstances of the accident. She went to the company to ask for documents and gathered information about forklifts and safety management.

Asking ‘why’ and ‘how’ many times…”The company doesn’t explain properly”

The more he looked into the accident, the more questions he had.

His son, an office worker, shouldn’t have been driving the forklift. Unloading was a subcontractor’s job. His son had worked for this subcontractor and driven a forklift before joining Dongwon Rox, but after joining the company, he was assigned to office management, computer management, and customer claims management. Naturally, he did not receive any forklift safety training. However, the son was found to have driven a forklift on several occasions. Other employees had also been driving forklifts to and from the site, the family said.

Cho Mo-san, 60, a father who lost his son, 29, in a forklift tip-over accident on March 27, holds his son’s work memo that reads “Cost reduction (forklift) calculation” at the office of labor agency Chamter Yeongdong Branch in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 11. Hae-Ram Cho Reporter

Ms. Cho thought her son, a rookie, could not have operated a forklift without someone’s instructions. The deceased son’s cell phone showed that he reported to someone before and after operating the forklift. He even sent a KakaoTalk message to his boss on Feb. 4, saying, “The box was damaged while riding the forklift. Closed-circuit (CC) TV footage from the day of the accident, which Mr. Cho checked, showed his son sitting in his office and then leaving to take a call from someone. Before loading the goods onto a forklift on the first floor, he took a picture of the return shipment with his cell phone camera and posted it on a KakaoTalk group chat room. “(Taking the photo) was probably to get instructions from someone and report it,” Cho said.

After the accident, company officials did not give a clear answer to Cho’s question about whether they had ordered the forklift to operate, saying it was not their job. “My son even drove a forklift to deliver oil in the neighborhood in December last year,” Cho said메이저놀이터. “It’s a lie to say that they don’t know how to operate a forklift while giving him miscellaneous tasks like delivering oil.”

There were more questions. The son’s forklift wasn’t supposed to be used on ramps. They have small wheels and usually accelerate and stop by pressing and releasing the accelerator pedal without brakes. Because of this, they pose a high risk of tipping over and are usually used indoors on flat surfaces. However, my son’s accident occurred on a steep downhill slope. He was not wearing a hard hat or safety shoes at the time of the accident. According to the bereaved family, CCTV footage from the day of the accident showed that not all employees were wearing safety equipment.

Cars descend from the ramp at Dongwon Loex’s Icheon Logistics Center in Gyeonggi Province, where a forklift tipped over on March 27. Courtesy of the bereaved family

Only after the accident, the center issued a notice on a KakaoTalk group chat room stating, “Absolutely no forklift operation by management staff. On the downhill slope where the accident occurred, fluorescent-colored signs and speed bumps were installed after the Ministry of Employment and Labor ordered them to do so.

On the anonymous community blind, which is only available to Dongwon Group employees, there were comments such as, “How could you know about the death of an employee of an affiliate from the news?” and “Did you think that if you didn’t say anything on the (in-house) bulletin board, you wouldn’t know?”. The bereaved family also pointed out that the company was trying to avoid responsibility and minimize the accident. “The bulletin board is for employees to post their own condolences, not for the company to manage,” said a Dongwon Group official.

“At the very least, they should be able to return home safely”

Many young people around Cho’s son’s age are flocking to logistics centers as the job market continues to struggle. According to the National Human Rights Commission’s “Survey on the Labor Rights Situation of Workers in Living Logistics Centers” in 2022, 72.0% of workers in single-item logistics centers were under the age of 30. Even in general sales logistics centers such as Coupang, 53.6% of employees were under 30. However, due to the increased scale of these centers, young people are exposed to risks due to poor safety management. From 2016 to 2020, a total of 732 workers were injured in the warehousing and other storage industry.

Ms. Cho’s son also worked diligently to prepare for the job, taking five certification exams in two years. When he got a job at a large company, he didn’t let his family know he was having a hard time. When Ms. Zhao felt sorry for her son, who lived in a poor dormitory, she offered him a studio apartment, but he refused. He saved up money and rented a room on his own. This was on March 26, the day before the accident.

Mr. Cho, 60, a father who lost his son, 29, in a forklift overturning accident on March 27, reads a congratulatory card for his son’s job at the Youngdong branch office of labor law firm Chamter in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 11. Hae-Ram Cho Reporter

Those who knew Cho’s son remember him as a sincere and caring person. A contractor who worked with him told Cho, “(He) was always grateful for his good manners and reliable work,” adding, “Everyone knew him.

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