LETTER TO THE EDITOR: When disobeying orders saves lives

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A country’s culture can have a negative impact on the outcome of travel accidents. For example, in the tragic South Korean ferry disaster, which has claimed up to 300 lives, high school students obeyed an order by crew members to stay put instead of leaving the sinking ferry — because Koreans traditionally teach their children to obey authority figures.

In the Asiana Flight 214 plane crash last year in San Francisco, which took three lives and injured more than 180 people, the South Korean trainee Boeing 777 pilot knew the plane was flying at too low a speed to land safely, but he didn’t inform the instructor pilot, who was his senior and who was guiding the flight, because he wasn’t in a position of authority. The instructor pilot was the superior, so the trainee gave deference to him, in keeping with cultural norms.


Huntington Beach, Calif.

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