Kindergarten Fire Escapes “As Dangerous as Ever”

December 7th, 2008 · Education and ESL, Surveys and Studies · 15 comments

Kuki News brings the disturbing, but frankly hardly surprising, news that safety equipment at Korean kindergartens and preschools is not what it ought to be.

Update: Check out this slide as well.

Holy shit on a cracker, look at that thing.

A study has found that owing to their steep slopes, slides being used as emergency exits at multi-story kindergartens and preschools remain as dangerous as ever. Since 2005 the government has required multi-story preschools and kindergartens to install stairs and slides as emergency exits but the businesses have failed to comply with basic standards, including incline levels. A further problem is that while some locations have been evaluated there is no particular system in place.

We are at a preschool in the Gangbuk area of Seoul on the 4th.  The slide attached to the exterior of the building is steeply inclined for a two-story length. And the slide is being supported by two rusted pipes not 5 centimeters in diameter. Though it is fixed to the second-floor wall, it is doubtful these pipes can sustain the load of several young children. If a fire or other emergency occurs and the children head onto the slide one after another it may collapse.

Next to the slide is a notice declaring that the slide was inspected in October of last year by the former Ministry of Gender and Family Equality (now the Ministry of Health and Welfare). The slide is unsuitable as an emergency exit but the government guarantees its safety for young children.

Other emergency exits for children are similar. 60-year old Yun Deok-hyeon, chief of the Korea Edu-Care Association (한국보육시설연합회), said, “even when a slide is installed on a building it is difficult to confirm it has sufficient structural integrity. There are many such cases in the city.”

The principal reason is the total lack of even basic regulation of the installation of slides as emergency exits. After the deaths of 19 kindergarten students in the Sealand fire in 1999, the government required multi-story kindergartens to install emergency exits. But, said the Ministry’s safety chief Jeong Yeong-hun, “the law still contains no standards for the use of slides as emergency exits. We were entrusted to do that.” But the government has not grasped the results of the 2007 survey of safety equipment at 30,856 multi-story locations nationwide.

This is because a score of 73.3 is enough to pass a safety inspection in which the total score is the main factor, even if an unsafe slide is present.

33-year old Mr. Baek, who lives in Weolgye-dong in Seoul, said, “we have to put up with insufficient safety equipment and practices, but isn’t the connection to life different? When safety is treated the same as other goals, there’s a problem.”


  • There used to be a place in my neighbourhood with a three-storey slide fire escape. I had no idea what the hell.

    Korean law is the best.

    Chris · December 7th, 2008 at 4:45 AM

  • I was convinced they were fun slides for the kids! What a place!
    By the way, has anyone ever experienced a fire drill at their schools? I have yet to experience one in 4 years here.

    Scotty · December 7th, 2008 at 9:04 AM

  • I have seen a fire drill at a school.
    The kids had to go get their outdoor shoes first AND THEN orderly leave the building.

    Then the fire dept came and hosed down a building for no apparent reason. Guess they were just wanting to show off for the kids. I was hoping they’d hose the kids down, or at least the new gym teacher. She’s kinda cute in white t-shirts and those jorts…ok I’m going off track.

    AgentX · December 8th, 2008 at 12:25 AM

  • I did a little write-up about a fire drill at my school: LOL@ the kids from the nurse’s office.

    I used to pass by a school in Gwangju that had a four-story slide fire escape.

    Brian · December 8th, 2008 at 1:33 AM

  • Those are fire escapes? I thought they were play slides. I always wondered what hell it would be working in a place where the kids are constantly tempted to escape by the most fun means possible.

    I can think of a few westerners who might get stuck trying to escape in one of those. Can you imagine being stuck in a slide beside a burning building waiting for the fire brigade to come and rescue you?

    Yu Bumsuk · December 8th, 2008 at 10:12 AM

  • All I see when I look at that “fire escape” is a pile of broken and battered children at the bottom of it. Not only is the incline way too steep, the bends in it gaurantee the kids are going to bounce around inside like pinballs. Snapped necks, concussions, broken bones: SAFETY FIRST KOREA!! FIGHTING!!

    redskinfankorea · December 8th, 2008 at 10:16 AM

  • I worked at a kindergarten in Japan which had some slides set up as fire escapes, but they were regular straight slides at a safe incline. I would trust them, but not some of the ones I’ve seen in Korea.

    Korea Beat · December 8th, 2008 at 11:21 AM

  • Fire escapes?! That’s hilarious.

    And so, while the kids are all jammed into plastic slides, piled up at the hairpin turns, while the building burns and the slides slowly melt; how are adults expected to get out?

    huh? · December 8th, 2008 at 11:33 AM

  • You know, I think if you look a little more closely at the pictured slide you can imagine that the turns may be gentler than they appear from the outside. But I still wouldn’t feel good about letting my kid go down it..

    Korea Beat · December 8th, 2008 at 2:00 PM

  • An ordinary spiral slide wouldn’t do the trick?

    Brian · December 8th, 2008 at 8:41 PM

  • What?!!! That’s a fire escape? Like others, the one I see almost everyday looks like and I always thought it was a slide that got condemned by the government (but they’d just not gotten around to taking it down.) In fact, the one near me has an exit that’s boarded up with a piece of wood! I’m completely confused as to how anyone would think that would be a safe way to get kids out of a building in an emergency.

    However, this is also a country where they still haven’t caught up to teaching new drivers that they must look over their shoulder briefly in the direction they want to go before they merge.

    It looks like, unfortunately, instead of learning from industrialized countries that learned the hard way through accidents and deaths. It’s going to take a tragedy for them to get it.

    ExpatJane · December 9th, 2008 at 1:35 PM

  • ExpatJane:

    These slides were put in place BECAUSE of a tragedy! They had a tragedy, and still don’t get it.

    kesumo · December 9th, 2008 at 8:35 PM

  • […] Picture via Korea Beat. […]

    Picture of the Day: Kindergarten Fire Escape · December 10th, 2008 at 1:04 AM

  • I must admit I thought they were fun slides, too. Nearby where I used to live there was a rather steep slide coming from the 2nd floor of a building and I just assumed it was a dangerously set-up kiddie slide.

    kushibo · December 19th, 2008 at 5:11 PM

  • Sad though not surprising. Someone obviously though that installing “slides” in buildings was a great idea for a fire escape.
    A hotel in Gyeonggi province I stayed in is a good example. It also has some sort of slide as an escape. It was behind an alarmed door (I think) so I didn’t get a good look.
    But the most shocking thing was the fire “safety” gear in the room. A sort of harness and a long sort of strap thing that apparently clips onto a hook in the wall. Like I’m going to rappel down from the 12th floor!…and this wasn’t even mountain climbing gear stuff…an old inch thick strap and one of those little circle hook things you can buy at a hardware store in the wall! Scary stuff!

    fatforiegner · June 1st, 2009 at 8:16 PM

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