Industrial robot in South Korea confuses man with boxes, kills him

A robot in South Korea crushed a man to death after the machine apparently failed to distinguish him from the boxes of products it was processing, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.

The man, a 40-year-old employee of a robotics company, was inspecting the robot’s sensor at an agricultural products distribution center in South Gyeongsang on Tuesday evening. The machine, which was lifting boxes of peppers onto a pallet, reportedly grabbed the man’s arm and pushed him against the conveyor belt, crushing his face and chest. The robot appears to have malfunctioned and identified the man as a box, police sources said.

Police are now preparing to investigate the site’s safety managers for possible dereliction of duty. An official from the Donggoseong Export Agricultural Complex, which owns the factory, called for the establishment of a “precise and safe” system in a statement after the incident, Ny Breaking reported. The man had reportedly filled in to conduct tests originally scheduled for November 6.

In March this year, a 50-year-old South Korean man suffered serious injuries after being trapped by a robot while working at an auto parts factory.

And last July, footage emerged of a chess robot breaking a child’s finger during a match in Russia.

The robot grabbed the seven-year-old boy’s finger during the Moscow Open because it became confused by his too-fast movements, Russian media reported. Sergey Lazarev, vice president of the Russian Chess Federation, said the child had violated “certain safety rules” by making a move too quickly.

In the past…

  • March 2023: Robot holds an auto worker seriously injured in South Korea
  • July 2022: Chess robot broke a child’s finger during a match in Russia

First print: November 8, 2023 | 11:46 PM IST