The nursing community and their supporters gathered in Seoul to commemorate the late Park Seon-wook and Seo Ji-yoon who killed themselves due to bullying at work. They claimed that the bullying culture, called “taeum” (burn-to-ashes in Korean), was a structural issue that hospitals should address aggressively.
Remembering the Park’s death a year ago, nurses and activists held a rally at Cheonggye Plaza in central Seoul, Saturday. A joint committee for identifying the cause of the late Park’s death, preventing its recurrence and recognizing it as an industrial accident, and a citizens’ task force on the case of the late Seo jointly organized the event.
|Nurses and their supporters hold a memorial rally at Cheonggye Plaza in central Seoul on Saturday, to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Park Seon-woo, who killed herself due to bullying at work at Asan Medical Center. The message of the pickets in the front row says, “Asan hospital should take responsibility for Park’s death.”|
Despite the cold weather, nurses rushed to gather at the plaza holding pickets with messages such as “Do not kill nurses anymore,” “I am Seo Ji-yoon,” and “I am Park Seon-wook.”
Eom Ji, a member of the joint committee for the late Park, said hospitals were to blame for creating and turning a blind eye to the bullying culture in the nursing community.
“The reasons hospitals aid or abet the violation of human rights such as bullying is because hospitals are the culprit,” Eom said. “Hospitals locked workers in a hierarchical culture to exploit them and make them not being able to complain about the poor working environment.”
Eom went on to say that there were many medical mishaps that only medical professionals know, besides the numerous errors reported by the media.
“The death conveyer belt is rolling not only in the Taean Power Plant but in hospitals, cruelly,” she said. Eom was mentioning the death of a young man who was killed in an accident in the power plant in Taean, South Chungcheong Province while doing an overnight duty alone.
“A person who cannot keep up with this speed of the belt either leaves the hospital or gets the limbs, and the whole body was torn and burned in pieces, and becomes ashes,” she added.
Eom said both the hospitals and the government are responsible for “not closing the big and deep hole.”
Kwon Dong-hee, a labor attorney for the late Park, said he was sure that Park’s death was an industrial accident and that the hospital Asan Medical Center should be held accountable for her death.
“Asan Medical Center did not apologize at all even though it knew its mistakes internally. The hospital must take responsibility, and we should change the hospital system to prevent a tragedy similar to the case of Park Seon-wook,” he said.
All we want is hospital’s apology: bereaved family
The bereaved family of the late Park also highlighted the hospital’s responsibility, demanding an apology and measures to prevent nurses’ suicides.
Kim Yoon-ju, an aunt of the late Park, said she has wished that the hospital could change its stance for the past year. “As we demanded, I hope that Seoul Medical Center could apologize to us officially,” she said.
Kim said her family’s wish -- that there would not be a second Park Seon-wook who commits suicide -- did not come true.
If hospitals do something to fix the fundamental problem of the shortage of nurses, to educate new nurses properly, and keep the number of patients per nurse under a particular limit, the bullying culture will die away, Kim said.
The mother of the late Seo, who used to work at Seoul Medical Center, said there should be due punishment on the people who bullied her daughter to death. “We should not allow another death of a nurse. I hope my daughter’s death will not be forgotten in vain,” she said.
Med students vow solidarity with nurses to prevent bullying
The student association of medical universities and graduate schools of medicine said it agreed with nurses that the harassment in the nursing community was a structural problem in medical scenes.
The association pledged solidarity with nurses.
Jeon Si-yeong, head of the student association of medical universities and graduate schools, said he would seek solutions to the violent culture and structural problems through solidarity among the student communities that will shape the future of the medical community.
A member of the student association voicing for human rights of medical professionals said authoritarianism was an agenda for medical students, too.
“I participated in the rally because I am one of the hospital workers. Medical students should raise the issue about the current situation where hospitals put capital before human rights,” he said.