Park orders thorough probe into deadly gym collapse
SEOUL, Feb. 18 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye expressed sadness and ordered a thorough investigation Tuesday after the roof of a gymnasium caved in under the weight of snow, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100 in southeastern South Korea the previous day.
"It is truly heart-aching and sad that many lives were lost in the collapse," Park said during a Cabinet meeting. "I offer words of comfort to the families of the victims, and I ask for best efforts to take care of the injured and compensation matters."
"Along with a thorough investigation into the accident, we should also carry out safety checks on public facilities in regions along the east coast that recently received heavy snowfalls to make sure they're not posing any risks," she said.
The accident happened Monday evening when hundreds of incoming college freshmen were having a welcoming party in a hotel gymasium in the southern city of Gyeongju. Ten people, including nine students, were confirmed dead, two were seriously injured and 101 others sustained minor injuries.
Park also expressed sympathy to the families of victims in a recent bomb attack on a tour bus in Egypt that killed three South Koreans and wounded 14 others. She said such a terror attack is an "inhumane crime that can never be tolerated under any circumstances."
The bus was carrying 31 South Korean churchgoers and two Korean and one Egyptian tour guide when it was hit by the suspected suicide attack in the small Egyptian town of Taba on the Sinai Peninsula on Sunday, as it was preparing to cross into Israel.
The blast killed one female South Korean tourist and two Korean tour guides on board, along with the Egyptian driver, officials at the foreign ministry said. Fourteen other Koreans were taken to nearby hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, they said.
Park also welcomed as "very meaningful" last week's agreement with North Korea to hold reunions of families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War this week as previously scheduled, regardless of joint military drills between the South and the United States.
Denouncing the annual exercises as a rehearsal for invasion of the communist nation, Pyongyang had earlier threatened to boycott the reunions if the South went ahead with military drills with the U.S. Both Seoul and Washington have long contended that the drills are purely defensive in nature.
Park also called for "fundamental" solutions to the issue of family reunions.
"About 3,800 people passed away last year alone without being able meet with their families, even though they signed up for reunions. We should put together fundamental measures to help separated families to meet more often," she said. "North Korea should be more aggressive on this issue."