Photo: Land Minister Won Hee-ryong (in black) inspects the collapsed parking structure in Geomdan. Credit: Ministry of Land and Transportation.
Boneless chicken nuggets are great. Boneless buildings, not as much. On April 29, the underground parking structure for a new luxury condo under construction in the Geomdan 검단 area of Incheon 인천 collapsed, leaving a crater two stories deep. Nobody was injured in the collapse, which occurred around 11:30 p.m. after the construction crew had left the site. Had the timing been slightly different, the collapse could have been far deadlier: residents were scheduled to move into the development by October, and the collapsed parking structure sat directly beneath a children's playground.
The subsequent investigation led to the shocking revelation that the parking structure had little to no steel rebar reinforcement. Eight of the parking structure’s 32 structural columns remained standing after the collapse, fully half of which had no rebar despite construction blueprints specifically calling for reinforcement. The investigation also found that the concrete used for the column was weak after being improperly cured. Shares of GS Construction GS건설, which was building the condos under its luxury brand Xii 자이, lost 31% of their value following the accident, though the brand did earn a new nickname: “Boneless Xii 순살자이”.
But after the collapse prompted other construction companies to inspect the safety of their own buildings, GS Construction turned out not to be the only company with shoddy construction. The LH Corporation LH공사, a publicly owned company responsible for building subsidized housing, found missing steel beams and weak concrete in 21 of its 92 projects. The soaring cost of raw materials is pushing construction companies to skimp on materials, while a lack of skilled workers has resulted in mishaps like concrete being improperly cured or blueprint instructions being misread.