An-sim booths, initially expected to function as safe zones, turned out to be inefficient in crime scenes due to its unsuitable locations and lack of awareness among citizens. In 2015, KT Linkus and Seoul Metropolitan Government planned to renovate barely used old payphones into these safe booths. However, with only 13 safety booths remaining in Seoul, controversy arose over the maintenance of the safe-zone phone booths.
The original intention of the renovation was to revive the usage of payphones that was decreased due to mobile phones being an indispensable item always carried by people in a modern society. By adding a new safety function, KT Linkus expected to see the new role of the payphone booth as a safe zone. The safety booths intended to allow people to be safe in those booths, helping them escape from abrupt danger.
However, locations of some safety booths revealed to be far from potential crime scenes. When Ewha Voice visited a safety booth in Gongdeok, it was located on the main street of the town, surrounded by high-rise buildings. The street was very bright even at midnight, with five to six street lamps lightened around. Not only the safety booth located in Gongdeok, but also the ones in Gwanghwamun and Junggu were located on the main streets where people can easily get help when they face danger.
“There is less necessity in having the safety booths in such crowded places ,” said Chang I-soo, a sophomore majoring in Division of International Studies. “I think we need them in places where less people pass by which are more dangerous than those that are more populated.”
Chang further commented on the function of the safety booths, questioning its effectiveness in crime scenes.
“Locking myself in the booth means there is no way for me to run away from the crime,” Chang said. “What if the criminal just breaks in before the police arrive? We can’t really guarantee if a safety booth is actually safe enough for a person to stay.”
Furthermore, another safety booth located in Daechi was only 30 meters away from Daechi Patrol Division. Han Hyun-woo, a sophomore in Seoul National University who lives near the safety booth, said he didn’t see a reason for the safety booth being located near the Patrol Division where it is already safe.
“I’ve seen this safety booth for four years as I walked by and even though I heard of the intention, I never knew how it works,” Han said. “I think it is due to the failure of marketing. I don’t think KT Linkus nor has the government tried enough to make people be more aware of these safety booths.”
When asked about the current controversy regarding the safety booths, Park Seong-yeon, a professor of Business Administration, commented that there may be two possible causes for this failure.
“The first possibility may be the lack of sincerity in achieving Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),” Park said. “Safety booth is a CSR activity where company works as an extra to improve their public image. It seems that the company may have lacked a strong will to make the project successful. They may have only been looking for a good reputation by doing such CSR project. The second possible reason may be a peace-at-any-price principal of public enterprises. After the start and the press release, their passion fades away and project appraisals disappear. It is a common weakness of public enterprises and I see the same flaw in this situation.”
Currently, Seoul Metropolitan Government has stopped installing more safety booths due to its low efficiency. Their initial plan of setting 50 safety booths in Seoul has failed, with only 13 booths left in total and its maintenance being suspected.
When asked about the future plan for the safety booths, a KT Linkus official replied that they didn’t have any expansion plan. He further remained silent on providing a stance on the actual usage of the safety booths.
“We are planning to maintain the current safety booths however, whether to maintain these booths needs an agreement with an associated organization,” a KT Linkus official said.