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Nurses rally to protest harsh working conditionsSolidarity group pays tribute to colleague who committed suicide
  • By Lee Min-ju
  • Published 2018.03.05 16:49
  • Updated 2018.03.05 16:55
  • comments 0

The recent suicide of nurse Park Seon-woo at Asan Medical Center has shed light on the bullying culture among nurses, prompting more nurses to call on the government to improve nursing conditions at hospitals.

Nurses have taken to the street over the weekend, holding candle lights, white chrysanthemum, and a placard saying “No more death.”

Dubbed “taeum,” meaning “burn-to-ash” in Korean, the bullying culture in Korea’s nursing community allows senior nurses to bully juniors under the pretext of training.

Over 300 nurses gathered in front of the Kyobo Building in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, Saturday, to pay tribute to colleague Park Seon-wook at Asan Medical Center who committed suicide recently.

On Saturday evening, more than 300 nurses gathered in front of the Kyobo Building in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, to pay tribute to the death of Park.

The Nurse Band Together (NBT), a solidarity group of nurses, held the rally, with most of them shouting that the death of Park was caused by overworking. They also urged hospitals to prevent a similar incident and hire more nurses.

‘If I had fixed the problem when I experienced bullying 30 years ago’

“Even though Park’s death was caused by our society’s unfair system, no one is willing to take responsibility for this. Now, we have to change the reality of the poor nursing environment. If necessary, we should also change laws and systems,” said Hyeon Jeong-hee, head of the medical solidarity division at the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union.

“The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the National Health Insurance Service know that if nurses are in shortage, patients can be put in danger and even die. But they don’t say ‘I’m responsible.’ Asan Medical Center, which made Park work 16 hours a day, does not admit its fault. Now, it’s time for us to act,” she added.

Hyeon shared her experience of getting bullied by seniors 30 years ago when she was a new staff. “If I had tried hard to change the taeum culture, Park might not have made such sad decision,” she said, showing tears.

Trainee doctors support nurses to improve working conditions
Interns and medical residents said they would help nurses to enhance nursing conditions.

“Please continue to speak up for a change until we can later talk and laugh about the current situation, where things that should be protected are not protected. We, medical residents, will walk with you. We support you,” said Ahn Chi-hyeon, president of the Korean Intern Resident Association.

“Taeum is very serious violence. A little bit of googling shows that Korea has three or four times higher number of patients per nurse, compared to other countries. But the government and hospitals are neglecting this situation. We should make a voice until we change this,” he added.

Lee Jong-ran, an activist at Banolim, an advocacy group for industrial workers, said we should make our society where nurses live like humans. She also emphasized that the bullying culture that allows ridiculing, bullying and harassing people should be rooted out.

“We should think deeply about why taeum was created in the first place. The nursing environment, which forces nurses to work long hours, to even 17 hours a day, is causing them to lean on the bullying. The government should come up with measures to improve their working conditions,” Lee added.


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