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Questions raised after student dies in Madrid

Jan 14,2020
The family of a Korean student who died in Madrid after being hit in the head by a rock that fell from a government building on Dec. 21 is calling for an investigation into the incident and compensation from the Spanish government.

Thirty-two-year-old Korean Lee Ji-hyeon was instantly killed when a piece of the building fell from the sixth floor and struck her on the head as she was walking along the street below.

Lee, who acquired a bachelor’s degree in fashion design at Kookmin University in northern Seoul, went to Spain to learn Spanish in March 2019.

Her family said one of her life goals was to work at Zara, the Spanish multinational fast-fashion brand.

Her family returned to Busan from Spain last Wednesday to hold a three-day mourning period, after which Lee’s body was buried at Busan Memorial Park on Jan. 10.

“The Spanish government won’t tell us about the details of the accident,” Lee Seong-u, Lee’s father, said. “My wife and I even staged a protest calling for a fair investigation into my daughter’s death, but the Spanish government won’t say a word about it.”

Lee claims the Spanish government is trying to cover up the accident for which they are responsible as it was caused by poor management of the building.

“Although the Spanish government said strong wind caused the accident, we found out that there weren’t any winds at the time. A witness who was walking behind my daughter verified that as well,” Lee said.

“The Spanish authorities threw the stone fragment away, which was the only evidence, and just left a photo of the scene of the accident. It’s their intention to conceal the truth.”

“The Spanish government has been repeatedly saying that they cannot provide any compensation as the accident was caused by a natural disaster,” Lee said. “Now, I feel totally helpless.”

Lee also said he would request help from the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I hope the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will step in to request a fair investigation and compensation from the Spanish government,” Lee said.

“Since it is impossible to deal with this issue by myself, the country should help us. I will fight for this to the very end until the Spanish government takes responsibility for my daughter’s death.”

BY CHEA SARAH, LEE EUN-JI [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]