2021 Shortlist

Three workers a day are never back from work for good

Country/area: South Korea

Organisation: The Kyunghyang Shinmun (daily newspaper)

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 15 Jan 2020

Credit: Kyungsang Hwang, Jihwan Kim, Minjee Choi, Areum Lee, Yoojin Kim

Project description:

In Korea, three workers die in an accident at an industrial site a day. In order to effectively inform this horrible reality to the people, we decided to investigate how many people are dying for a certain period and show all of the death. we investigated and analyzed 1,305 accident reports. And then we reported articles that 1,748 workers were dead during a year and 10 months. We made an archive of how each person died into website, so readers could check it out. And we filled the front page of the newspaper only with over 1,000 dead workers’ name.

Impact reached:

Since the report, many experts and civic groups have mentioned our reports in newspaper columns, statements, and social media. Kim Hoon, a famous Korean novelist who has usually spoken out about brutality of industrial accidents, sent a special contribution to our newspaper and we published it as a part of our article series. Political sphere and labor groups have also issued statements after our reports. At the time, the Democratic Party of Korea, the Bareunmirae Party, and the Justice Party mentioned the report and said they felt responsibility. They urged the government and the National Assembly and companies to take action to reduce accident. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the two largest trade union organizations in Korea, also commented on our reports.

In the wake of our reports, many press have released similar reports that show the seriousness of industrial accidents. Like us, more articles have been written by analyzing accident reports. Interest in the deaths of workers has increased in journalism of Korea.

The punishment of industrial accidents in Korea was very weak. After the report, Minister of Labor Lee Jae-gap said in an interview with our paper that he would ask the Supreme court to raise the sentencing guidelines for punishment of industrial accidents . As mentioned in the interview, Minister Lee met with Kim Young-ran, chairman of the Supreme Court’s Sentencing Committee, in June last year and asked for adjustment of sentencing guidelines. A month later, the Supreme Court’s Sentencing Committee began revising the sentencing guidelines, and in January this year, it announced the sentencing guidelines to drastically increase the sentences of crimes violating the Industrial Safety and Health Act.

Techniques/technologies used:

We inputed all data into the Google Spread Sheet by hand. And then analyzed using the pivot table. We used Python for more detailed analysis. For example, to find out which conglomerates the industrial accidents are affiliated with, we created a program using Python that contrasts the workplace where industrial accident occurs with name of the affiliates. Python also were used analyzing what causes disasters and how many disasters have similar patterns.

We made an archive of how each person died into website as interactive news, which acts as an archive. It was created using html5/css3 and jquery and javascript. Using the D3.js library, 2,000 dead workers were visualized as small icon of human figures. The colors and forms of icon’s shapes were expressed differently depending on the type of cause of the accident so that users could see that 50% of the death were caused by falls at a glance. Users also can categorize dead workers by age, proficiency, industry, size of business, accident type.

We visualized the distribution of daily deaths by heat map based on D3.js. death place. we marked the place of death on the map using Leaflet library.


What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part was collecting and organizing data. In order to understand the current status of industrial accidents, we requested information disclosure to the Ministry of Labor and obtained a list of accident reports from 2016 to September 2019. And we received 1,305 accident investigation reports that written form last year to September this year with the help of the Democratic Party of Korea’s lawmaker Han Jung-ae’s office. Because reports were in PDF file format, so we manually inputted them all into the spreadsheet. It took about a month and a half to complete data input. Refining data also wasn’t easy because the list received from information disclosure, the list received through the lawmaker’s office, and the list extracted from accident report were different. Until the day before the report, we had been revised the number of deaths.

It was the first time in Korea that an article compiled and analyzed all industrial accidents that occurred during a certain period of time. we also published the newspaper that filled front page with the dead worker’s name, age, and cause of the accident. It was evaluated as an unconventional attempt. It was rough, but it had a great effect as an infographic.

Three people a day, more than 1,000 a year, die, but people don’t know this very well. Our reports reminded many people of such a terrible reality once again.


What can others learn from this project?

The Old media is in crisis in these days amid the distrust of the media and the emergence of new media. Out report showed the possibility of what role traditional media can play by revealing structural problems and providing insights through extensive data collection and analysis in industrial accidents, a traditional field of reporting.

The combination of paper infographic and digital interactive news was first attempt in Korea. The subscription rate for newspapers is decreasing day by day. Many people think that newspaper pages are already old. However, newspapers are ‘the biggest media’ you can carry around with your hands. I think the experiencing of the properties of this medium deeply would impressed on current readers. We published the entire front page filled with a list of deaths, using the properties of this media. It delivered effectively messages to readers. On the other side of paper work, we created interactive news in digital space. It is archive of the dead workers on the web in the form of digital interactive news and deliver it to more people.

I think we presented one option to the media pursuing orthodox journalism.


Project links: