Lotte Aquarium water leak cover up scares away visitors

December 11, 2014
The aquarium inside the second Lotte World (Yonhap)

The aquarium inside the second Lotte World (Yonhap)

By Jung Min-ho

Two months ago, Na Kyong-chae, a mother of two children, bought yearly memberships to the aquarium inside the second Lotte World. But after the government found at least three water leaks there Wednesday, she immediately demanded a refund.

“I’m not going there again,” she said. “All of my friends also received refunds. They are very concerned about a potential major accident.”

Concerns are mounting over the nation’s largest aquarium, which holds 4,000 tons of water and 55,000 sea creatures of 650 species.

Yet what apparently worries people more than the water-leaking cracks found in the main water tank and on the side of the tank where Beluga whales are kept, is the nonchalant attitude of Lotte and the government.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Public Safety and Security check cracks in an aquarium at the second Lotte World, southern Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Inspectors from the Ministry of Public Safety and Security check cracks in an aquarium at the second Lotte World, southern Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

After Lotte officials discovered the cracks on Saturday, they did not inform visitors of the problem. Instead, they just blocked off the area around the leaking tank by putting up signs that read “cleaning” and “environment improvement” to keep people away.

“I think it is the company’s responsibility to tell visitors about the potential risks,” Na said. “If it turns into a big accident, it could hurt not only me, but also my children. That’s why I canceled the memberships.”

After an investigation, the Ministry of Public Safety and Security will ask the Seoul Metropolitan Government to inspect the facility again. But no disciplinary actions have been taken against Lotte.

Experts warn that minor problems should be dealt with seriously because they could cause a massive disaster, given that there is a three-story underground 154,000-volt transformer substation sitting right below the aquarium.

Na received a full refund for two tickets, which cost 130,000 won ($110). She said the company will give full refunds to those who want them following disclosure of the problem.

Another resident who lives in Jamsil, near the complex, is concerned about the building after a series of safety issues made headlines this year, including sinkholes and cracks.

“I have lived in Jamsil for more than 30 years, and I have never felt more unsafe than nowadays,” she said, refusing to give her name. “I don’t understand what the inspections are for, since it is clear that the Tower will not be closed unless a major disaster occurs.

“I hope that nothing happens, but if it does former President Lee Myung-bak and Lotte have to take the biggest blame.”

In October, cracks were found in the floor of the food court. Lotte said that they were just part of the old-fashioned style of the court.

Not long after, an employee of a Lotte subcontractor was cut when a piece of metal fell on him from the third floor of the building. His injuries were minor, but the accident deepened the public’s concerns.

Most recently, new cracks were spotted on the eighth floor early last month.