Death of student apprentice stirs controversy
Published : Oct 13, 2021 - 15:57
Updated : Oct 14, 2021 - 15:55
A memorial altar is prepared for high school student who died in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, on Oct. 6 while taking part in his school`s apprenticeship program. (Yonhap)
The case of a high school senior who drowned while participating in a student apprenticeship program has sparked an outrage, as safety rules were found to be loosely followed and eventually led to the student’s death.

A student surnamed Hong died in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, on Oct. 6 while taking part in his school’s apprenticeship program that started on Sept. 27. The school signed a contract with a yacht business in the area that allowed Hong to gain work experience at the company.

According to the Coast Guard, Hong died at around 10:40 a.m. while wearing scuba diving gear in order to remove barnacles under a yacht owned by the business. He did not have a scuba diving license and was reportedly instructed to go underwater by himself wearing an oxygen tank, flippers and a 12-kilogram lead belt given to him by the company.

He was working 8.5 meters under water and died while working alone. Hong was the only person working for the business other than the owner of the company.

His death came into question as the contract the school and the yacht business signed for the apprenticeship program stated that Hong was not allowed to go into the water.

He was in fact contracted to be a tour guide and provide meals for tourists.

Hong’s case further highlighted questions of whether students working taking part in work experience programs are given sufficient protection. The firm in contract with Hong’s school for the program is alleged to have broken rules and put Hong in danger, against the conditions of the contract.

Critics say that schools and regional education offices have not responsibly chosen businesses for apprenticeship programs, and worry that similar cases will arise if adjustments are not made.

The Ministry of Education vowed to come up with response measures to better address how work experience programs are run, announcing plans to set up an inspection team to dig deeper into the case and prepare measures to assure student safety.

The annual inspection of apprenticeship program management will be conducted sooner than scheduled, the ministry added.

By Ko Jun-tae (
헤럴드 에듀