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Firefighter's sacrifice honored across nation

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Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum pays his respects to firefighter Kim Dong-shik who sacrificed his life while responding to a fire at a Coupang warehouse, at a funeral hall in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, Saturday. Yonhap
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum pays his respects to firefighter Kim Dong-shik who sacrificed his life while responding to a fire at a Coupang warehouse, at a funeral hall in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, Saturday. Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

A wave of condolences are flooding in from across the nation over the death of a veteran firefighter who failed to escape from a fire at a Coupang warehouse in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, after ensuring his colleagues were safely evacuated first.

Kim Dong-shik, a 52-year-old firefighter with 27 years' experience, was found dead by rescue workers in the second-floor basement of the e-commerce giant's building, which had four stories above ground and two underground levels.

About six hours after the fire broke out Thursday, Kim entered the building with four colleagues to search for people who may have been trapped in the fire. Shortly after they entered the basement, however, the blaze began to spread, and he failed to exit the building with his colleagues who found their way out first.

According to a fire official, Kim's body was severely damaged by the fire.

All 248 Coupang employees who were working at the warehouse were evacuated in time, leaving Kim as the only fatality.

"It is very sad as all of us were waiting for the return of the missing firefighter who put the safety of his colleagues first," President Moon Jae-in was quoted as saying by his spokeswomen Park Kyung-mee, Saturday. "The government will come up with countermeasures to prevent any recurrence of this kind of tragedy."

Citizens wait in line to enter a funeral hall in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday, to pay their respects to firefighter Kim Dong-shik who sacrificed his life while responding to a fire at a Coupang warehouse. Yonhap
Citizens wait in line to enter a funeral hall in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday, to pay their respects to firefighter Kim Dong-shik who sacrificed his life while responding to a fire at a Coupang warehouse. Yonhap

Along with the President's message, Cabinet members, including Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, and rival party chiefs, Rep. Song Young-gil of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and Lee Joon-seok of the main opposition People Power Party, also visited a mourning altar for the firefighter set up in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province.

On Sunday, Coupang CEO Kang Han-seung vowed to prepare all possible means to support the bereaved family members.

"We will prepare detailed measures to make sure the bereaved do not undergo any difficulties in life," Kang said in a press release. "In addition, we will also support other firefighters who were injured while extinguishing the fire at our warehouse."

Kang added that his company will work to establish a scholarship fund named after Kim, for children of firefighters who sacrificed their lives during service.

Citizens have also offered their condolences to Kim in online communities. One citizen wrote on the portal site Nate, "There are few people who sacrifice their lives while working. It is a very sad event. Rest in peace."

For its part, the Gyeonggi Provincial Government also said Sunday that Kim's funeral ceremony will take place at 9:30 p.m., Monday, which will be attended by about 90 bereaved family members and his colleagues.

After the ceremony, his body will be taken to the Daejeon National Cemetery for burial.

The veteran firefighter who began his career in April 1994 received multiple awards for bravery.

Kim is survived by his wife, and a daughter and a son in their 20s.

A Coupang warehouse in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, which was ravaged by a fire that broke out Thursday, is seen in this photo, Saturday. Yonhap
A Coupang warehouse in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, which was ravaged by a fire that broke out Thursday, is seen in this photo, Saturday. Yonhap
Jun Ji-hye jjh@koreatimes.co.kr


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