The concern was crystallized by the deaths in 2014 of 20 nursing home patients who had dementia or stroke complications. Many died of smoke inhalation because they could not move on their own when the fire erupted.
The fire in Miryang, about 170 miles southeast of Seoul, was the second major deadly fire in South Korea in recent weeks. Twenty-nine people were killed and 40 injured in a fire that gutted a sports center in the town of Jecheon, about 75 miles southeast of Seoul, in December. Most of the victims in that fire had become trapped in a public sauna on the second floor of the building.
The deadly fires hit the country as South Koreans remain traumatized over the sinking of the ferry Sewol in 2014, which killed more than 300 people, most of them teenagers on a school trip.
The series of accidents, including the fires, has eroded confidence in the quality of the country’s public safety standards. Mr. Moon, who took office in May, has vowed to make the country’s institutions safer, and later Friday morning he pledged to take action in the wake of the fire.
In a statement, the president “expressed deep regrets” over the loss of life and ordered his government to launch a thorough investigation and take measures to prevent similar fires. Mr. Moon also called for quick medical support for those evacuated from the Miryang hospital.