City accused of neglecting safety of lifts for disabled
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A majority of the wheelchair lifts run by Seoul City for handicapped people have been in service for about a year without having undergone mandatory safety inspections, a government report showed yesterday.

Out of the total 587 wheelchair lifts for disabled people that were fitted before Oct. 19 last year, a mere 51 have so far been tested, according to the report the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy prepared for a parliamentary audit.

Only 23 of the 51 lifts have passed safety checks, while four have tested unsafe for operation. Safety tests are under way for the remaining 24 wheelchair lifts.
A revised law on the manufacturing and management of elevators was enacted Oct.

19 last year, requiring lifts installed before that date to undergo safety tests administered by government-certified agencies by Oct. 18 this year.

"The ministry has asked the city government to have the wheelchair lifts checked for safety several times, but the municipality has not responded," said Rep. Seol Song-woong of the Millennium Democratic Party, who requested the report.

The lawmaker said he knows that the city administration has no immediate plans to have the remaining 536 wheelchair lifts undergo safety tests.

The city's indifference is feared to pose a threat to the safety of handicapped people using the facilities.

"Had the city government carried out safety checks in time, a couple of recent elevator accidents could have been prevented," Rep. Seol claimed.

In January and May this year, malfunctioning wheelchair lifts in two of the capital's subway stations tumbled, killing two handicapped people.

A city official said that should the city government fail to carry out safety tests for the remaining 531 elevators by the legal deadline, it would put them out of service according to the law.

Under the law, elevators for the disabled, which have not been tested for safety, should be out of service. Violators face a jail term of up to one year or a fine of up to 10 million won.

Currently, 599 wheelchair lifts for the handicapped are installed at the capital's subway stations and public buildings.

(yskwak@koreaherald.co.kr)