For language tutor Lee Yoon-ji, 30, working from home in Seoul ― because classes have been moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic ― has been a nightmare over the past several months. Lee’s lessons frequently get disturbed by loud noises coming from her upstairs neighbors ― a family of four with two young children and a dog.
The children, who are usually at home as schools are closed, seem to spend most of their time running, jumping and shouting and the dog barks non-stop.
“I’ve asked them politely to keep the noise down several times, at least during my working hours in the morning, but nothing has changed,” she said.
Lee is seriously considering filing a complaint with the state-run mediation service under the Korea Environment Center (KEC) ― she is among thousands of people sharing the same problem.
With the year-long coronavirus pandemic keeping people stuck at home, the number of complaints over noise in apartment buildings has risen sharply, according to recent data from the KEC.
A total of 42,250 noise-related complaints were reported in 2020, more than double the yearly average of 20,508. The monthly figure for December hit a record high of 6,145, the largest since the center began to collect relevant data in 2012.
The increase showed a big correlation with the COVID-19 quarantine measures, with the imposition of tighter social distancing rules leading to more complaints being filed.
However, due to the lack of any solutions, disputes between neighbors can go from bad to worse, with some cases leading to assault and even escalating to murder.
Internet users share different ways to get back at their noisy neighbors on social media, for instance, by installing a high-power woofer speaker on the ceiling to cause noise and vibration in the apartment above.
Cha Sang-gon, head of the House Culture Research Institute, said a more sensible solution would be to contact a mediator, rather than neighbors trying to solve the issue between themselves.
“Noise between floors is a tricky subject, as it’s difficult to measure the exact damage caused by the disturbance. So when a problem occurs, it’s better to ask the apartment management or government support centers to intervene,” Cha told The Korea Times.
But as state-run mediation services cannot deal with every case due to their limited number of personnel, Cha advised communities in every apartment complex should actively organize their own residents’ mediation committees.
He also pointed out that the poor soundproofing of floors in many apartment buildings may be aggravating the matter. “A national audit conducted in 2019 showed that the soundproof quality of walls and floors in about six out of 10 apartments was substandard,” he said.
Regarding the issue, Rep. Yang Kyung-suk of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea proposed a revision bill to the Housing Act, Monday, which will hold builders liable for substandard soundproofing of homes.
“The construction companies that built the poor quality houses in the first place should take responsibility for noise between floors. Implementing strong measures such as a suspension of business, punitive damages and the strengthening of monitoring will force them to comply with standards,” Yang said.
Source: The Korea Times