The Korea Times 칼럼

다리가 무너질 때: When bridges fall (2011년 7월 2일)

divicom 2011. 7. 2. 06:50

When bridges fall, the loss is more than physical. When the ``Bridge of National Defense” collapses, you feel a sense of shame and doom. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that the nation’s mass media let out warning cries in unison last Saturday, the 61st anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War that devastated the peninsula for three years until a truce that continues through today.

The public reacted to the bridge’s destruction, though partial, rather emotionally probably because it was one of the most conspicuous victims of modern Korean history. It was built as a railroad bridge named ``Waegwan Cheolgyo” across the Nakdong River in 1905 by the Japanese who were preparing to make inroads into continental China via Korea. Four years after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, they built a new, two-way railroad bridge at the upper stream, leaving Waegwan Cheolgyo solely to pedestrians.

During the Korean War, the bridge emerged as one of the most important structures that could determine the outcome of the war. To prevent North Korean troops from using the bridge as a way of advancing south of the Nakdong, the U.N. forces bombed it on Aug. 3, 1950. After the war ceased as a result of an armistice in 1953, the bridge was restored for pedestrian use. In 1993, it went through an overhaul and was designated as a cultural property with the honorable name of the “Bridge of National Defense.”

When parts of this bridge of eventful life collapsed, criticism was directed at the government-pushed ``Four-river Restoration Project” for which the river bottom had been dredged up. The progressive Hankyoreh Shinmun pointed out that dredging was in full swing at the time of the collapse of the second pier of the bridge.

``If the riverbed is excavated to a significant depth around a pier, the base of the pier is exposed and begins to erode by the flowing water. Because of this, dredging around the area of the bridge was limited to a depth of 4 meters (13.1 feet), but this was not strictly observed,” the paper reported, quoting the head of the Daegu Construction and Mechanical Workers’ Branch of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.

Daewoo E&C (Engineering and Construction) and the Busan Office of the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (MLTM) immediately stated after the mishap that protective work had been done for the bridge in February and early last month. Soon, it was confirmed that Daewoo shored up some piers in the middle of the river after dredging around them, but the collapsed pier was excluded from such efforts for economic reasons.

To the public’s dismay, there are several other bridges which stand in weakened riverbeds as Waegwan Cheolgyo. Protective measures should be taken for such bridges before dredging, but such efforts are usually made after dredging or not made at all for the lack of time, civil engineering experts say.

They say that Saturday’s collapse is a good case proving ``haste makes waste.” The government has been carrying out the “Four-river Restoration Project” in a rush while the nation is still divided widely about the map-changing, multi-billion-dollar plan. Government authorities have been and are all out in publicizing the project’s merits yet they fail to offer the most fundamental information. The MLTM’s website doesn’t even say when the project was started nor does it provide a related budget or timetable. It just presents a diagram showing what percentage of the planned work has been completed.

The total cost is estimated to be around 42 trillion won (approximately $40 billion); the government announced in mid-April that it would spend another 20 trillion won to refurbish streams that flow to the four major rivers ― Han, Geum, Nakdong and Yeongsan ― in addition to the 22 trillion won already earmarked for the project.

The government seems to be bent on ``restoring” the rivers before next year’s elections ― April for lawmakers and December for the President. While the political motivation is understandable, the casualty toll may be too great to benefit the government and its party. At least 10 workers lost their lives as of April while working on tight schedules at various sites along the four rivers. Ruling party’s Rep. Ahn Hong-joon reported in April that overtime labor was going on at 152 of the 154 construction sites.

Other victims of haste include rivers and streams that have lost their natural beauty and inhabitants and neighbors, and valuable cultural properties like Waegwan Cheolgyo. on Monday, Hwang Pyong-u, director of the Korea Cultural Heritage Policy Research Institute, filed legal complaints with the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office against MLTM Minister Kwon Do-youp, National River Restoration Office Director Shim Myung-pil, the MLTM Busan office chief, and the Daewoo site foreman, for causing the collapse of the cultural property by failing to take proper protective measures.

Governing party politicians may disregard Hwang’s move as an insignificant happening but who knows what his flint will hit.



여름이 깊어지면서 4대강 사업이 다시 문제되고 있습니다. 서둘러 진행되는 바람에 해야할 일들을 하지 않거나 잘못하여 여러 가지 부작용을 낳고 있기 때문입니다. 구미 시민들은 단수로 고생하고 칠곡에선 문화재인 왜관 철교가 무너졌습니다. 왜관 철교의 다른 이름은 '호국의 다리'입니다. 6.25전쟁 때 유엔군에 의해 폭파되어 남으로 쳐들어 오는 북한군을 막았던 다리입니다. 그 때의 희생 덕에 '호국의 다리'라는 명예로운 이름을 얻었고 문화재로도 지정되었습니다. 이런 다리가 무너지니 부끄럽고도 기분이 나쁩니다.


다리가 무너진 것은 준설 공사를 하면서 다리 보강공사를 제대로 하지 않았기 때문입니다. 사건이 난 직후 정부 당국과 대우건설은 비가 많이 내려서 다리가 무너졌다고 발뺌하다가 주민들의 지적으로 자신들의 실수를 인정했습니다. 40조 원이 넘는 세금을 사용하는 공사를 국민의 의사가 통합되기도 전에 밀어부친 것도 문제려니와, 공사를 너무 빨리 진척시키는 바람에 전 국토가 몸살을 앓게 된 것입니다.


아름다운 곡선으로 이루어졌던 강변들이 직선화되고 인근 주민들은 생업과 일상에 타격을 입고 고생하는가 하면 지난 4월까지 적어도 10명의 인부가 4대강 공사현장에서 사망했습니다. 한나라당 안홍준 의원에 따르면 154개의 공사 현장 중 152곳에서 인부들이 초과근무를 하고 있다고 합니다.


한국문화유산정책연구소의 황평우 소장은 지난 27일 권도엽 국토해양부 장관과 심명필 4대강 살리기 추진본부장 등 4명을 대검찰청에 고발했습니다. "왜관철교 붕괴는 인접한 4대강 사업으로 하상이 과도하게 준설돼 일어난 사고"이 "2번 교각은 세굴에 의한 붕괴 위험에 노출되어 있었음에도 그에 대한 보강 대책을 하지 않았다"는 게 고발의 이유입니다.


나라의 지도를 바꾸는 사업이지만 4대강 사업은 내년에 치러질 국회의원 선거와 대통령 선거 때문에 이렇게 서둘러 진행되는 것 같습니다. 정치적 동기를 이해하면서도 착잡한 마음을 어쩔 수 없습니다. 이 중대한 사업이 졸속 처리되는 것을 막는데 황 소장의 고발이 부싯돌 역할을 해주기를 바라는 마음 간절합니다.