A twist that could have been taken straight from a science fiction thriller; work pressure appears to have claimed an unexpected victim in South Korea: a robot.

On June 26, South Korea’s Gumi City Council revealed that their top administrative officer robot was discovered ‘dead,’ having seemingly thrown itself down a six-and-a-half-foot flight of stairs. This unprecedented event, being referred to as the country’s first robot “suicide,” has left the local community in shock and mourning.

The Dramatic Fall

Appointed in August 2023, the robot was one of the first of its kind to serve in an official capacity in Gumi City.

Developed by Bear Robotics, a Californian startup known for its robot-waiter technology, the robot worked from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and was equipped with a civil service officer card. It was responsible for various duties including “daily document deliveries, city promotion, and delivered information,” as stated by an official in the AFP report.

It was officially a part of the city hall, one of us,” one official said. “It worked diligently.” However, on the afternoon of June 26, the robot suffered a dramatic fall from a flight of stairs, leading to its early demise.

Witnesses reported seeing the robot “circling in one spot as if something was there” before it fell, and it was later found “smashed up lying in the stairwell between the first and second floors of the council building.”

The ‘Depressed’ Robot

In the wake of the robot’s sudden death, the Gumi City Council announced that they would investigate the cause of what they are calling the robot’s “depression” and subsequent fall.

“Pieces have been collected and will be analyzed by the company,” the official said, as quoted in the AFP report. The investigation will look into both potential software and hardware issues to understand what might have caused the robot’s apparent distress.

The robot was a significant symbol of South Korea’s rapid adoption of robotic technology, holding the distinction of being the first robot to serve as a city council officer. This incident raises questions about the pressures and challenges faced by robots in high-stress roles, drawing attention to the broader implications of robotic work environments.

 Read more: AI Robot Breaks Child’s Finger In Reaction At A Russian Chess Match

Grim South Korean Workplaces

South Korea’s remarkable progress in technology and startups has come at a significant cost: a culture of overwork and high stress.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Koreans worked an average of 1,901 hours per year in 2022, far exceeding the OECD average of 1,752 hours. This intense work culture is a product of a competitive environment that begins in schools and extends into the workplace.

Just last week, workers at Samsung, one of South Korea’s most prominent companies, went on strike demanding better pay and working conditions.

The worker union called for a “more transparent system for bonuses and time off” and wanted the company to “treat it as an equal partner.” This strike underscores the broader issue of workplace stress in South Korea, which has also been reflected in the recent incident with the city council’s robot.

The robot’s apparent suicide has sparked a wide range of reactions from the public and media alike. Local headlines have questioned the circumstances of the robot’s death, asking, “Why did the diligent civil officer do it?

The incident prompted a mix of sympathy and scepticism from the public, with one person questioning, “If the workload had been too much, would he have spun around for a long time and then rushed down the stairs?” Another commented, “I pray that scrap metal rests in peace.

This tragic event has also spotlighted the intense work pressures faced by South Koreans, both human and robotic. It has sparked conversations about the high-stress work environment prevalent in the country and has become a symbol of the broader issues surrounding work-life balance and mental health.

The untimely demise of Gumi City’s administrative officer robot has highlighted both the potential stresses of integrating robotics into public service and the broader issues of work pressure in South Korea. While the robot was a model worker, its tragic end raises important questions about the mental and operational health of robotic systems. 

As the investigation continues, it will be crucial to explore these questions to prevent future incidents and ensure that both human and robotic workers can thrive in a balanced and supportive work environment.

Image Credits: Google Images

Feature image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: Hindustan Times, Indian Express, First Post

Find the blogger: Katyayani Joshi

This post is tagged under:  Robot Suicide, Gumi City Council, Robot Death, Tech News, Bear Robotics, Workplace Stress, Robot Investigation, South Korea, Robot Worker, AI, Robotics, Robot Densities, Tech Tragedy, Innovation Challenges, Work-Life Balance

Disclaimer: We do not hold any right, or copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.

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