SEOUL, April 20 (Korea Bizwire) — The value of protecting public safety is not arguable. But what if it comes at the price of forcing others to make sacrifices — physically and financially?
The ongoing conflict at a mega apartment complex in eastern Seoul between thousands of its residents and package delivery workers might provide fodder for thought on the issue and a peep into the microcosm of similar cases around the country.
During the weekend, deliverymen issued an ultimatum to the residents, demanding they allow trucks to operate and park at ground level or come up with alternatives.
The complex enforced the ban on April 1 out of safety concerns for residents who often complain about service trucks moving too fast on residential streets and told delivery workers to park their vehicles in basement garages before bringing parcels to customers.
The core issue, however, is that many delivery trucks are unable to enter the underground parking garage due to the maximum height clearance.
And delivery workers have been left with no option but to use luggage carts to move loads of packages from the complex’s entrance to customers’ doors, which could be quite a distance given the complex’s 5,000-unit size.
“The residents association argues that they have given us a one-year grace period, but the fact is that we were just unilaterally notified of the decision,” the workers’ union, associated with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the country’s second-largest labor group, said.
Calling the measure unfair, the union pointed out that other service vehicles, including moving trucks and garbage trucks, were exempt from the ban.
It also dismissed outright a suggestion that workers buy new trucks or modify vehicles to clear the height limit — with their own money.
The workers complained that the ban made them work three times longer than usual and a modified truck with lower heights could put their health even at greater risk because they would be forced to bend their backs or walk on their knees when moving packages out of the trucks.
According to a survey released by the union in September, 87.7 percent of the 821 delivery men said they suffered from chronic upper body pain and 83.6 percent said their backs hurt, indicating that work-related physical ailments were already an issue.
At a press conference in front of the complex Friday, the union said it would resume doorstep delivery in the face of angry calls and text messages from residents over the suspension.
The decision came only two days after it suspended the service out of protest. In absence of alternatives, they had left parcels near the entrance, causing chaos as residents had to sort through hundreds of packages to find theirs.
This is not the first episode of its kind in a country where volumes of parcels have significantly risen since the coronavirus pandemic began and since apartments, the most common housing form, have enforced stricter safety measures.
To solve the problem, the government revised the relevant law in January 2019 to raise the height limit to 2.7 meters or higher “to allow service vehicles to enter underground parking garages.”
But the complex in question was built before the revision came into effect, and there are more than 170 similar complexes around the country, according to the union.
Residents have been discussing ways to solve the issue.
Ideas for viable solutions include making a delivery route inside the complex and having service trucks deliver parcels only during certain times of the day.
Letting workers use electric carts to move packages or hiring elderly residents for door-to-door delivery service are also being discussed. Some suggest building a pickup center inside the complex.
The union said it would consider charging the complex an additional fee if the ban is not withdrawn and discuss the matter with a logistics company. It is scheduled to hold a meeting with its members Sunday to discuss further measures.