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Overcoming sadness of losses following lifting of Sewol ferry

Overcoming sadness of losses following lifting of Sewol ferry

Posted March. 24, 2017 07:22,   

Updated March. 24, 2017 07:25


The Sewol Ferry has displayed its tragic image about three years after sinking. This happened 1,072 days after the massive disaster that killed 304 of the 476 passengers on board when it sank in Mangolsudo waterway in Jindo County, South Jeolla Province in the morning on April 16, 2014. The Oceans and Fisheries Ministry will conduct work to lift the ill-fated Sewol by tying it with iron ropes to two jacking barges before moving it onto a semi-submersible vessel on standby about 1.7 kilometers away for three days. The ministry will then move the ferry to Mokpo New Port, some 107 kilometers from the waters around April 5, carry out search operation across the ship, collect the remains of nine missing passengers, and investigate the cause of the accident.

A total of 250 students at 11th grade from Danwon High School in Ansan who embarked on a field trip to the vacation island of Jeju amid excitement three years ago were found lifeless at a young age even before seeing the zenith of their lives. The high waves at Manggolsudo plunged the young souls mostly 17 years old into the complete darkness under the sea. The students followed adults’ instruction to ‘stay put inside the cabin’ when the ferry was tilting, lost the chance to escape and perished tragically. It is hoped that the bodies of all the missing people will be discovered and collected from the ferry, which has been just raised, and return to bereaved families who could hardly leave Paengmok Port for three years in desperate search of their loved ones.

The hull of the ferry that is showing its gloomy appearance is the symbol of the pain and suffering of the bereaved families who have had to endure the insurmountable hardships, the government’s incompetence, the leader’s negligence, grown-ups’ greed and lack of safety awareness, divide of public opinions over post-disaster management, selfishness of the political circles, and the sacrifice of those who died young who can hardly be forgotten despite passing of time….and all of these. With the raising of the Sewol, Korea should conclude and completely resolve the issue and move forward, but the Sewol’s sinking is a national scar that should be remembered forever.

The Sewol ferry that has thus been raised asks this question anew. What is a state? Soon after the Sewol disaster, then President Park Geun-hye vowed that she will sever the chain of corruptions involving gwan-fia (bureaucrat+mafia) in order to eradicate deep-rooted evils in officialdom. However, President Park herself spearheaded acts of cronyism and ties between politicians and businesses and has been fired as a result. The Constitutional Court, which dismissed the president, said the disgraced president’s whereabouts and activities during ‘seven hours’ after the Sewol’s sinking is not a cause for her impeachment, but nonetheless pointed out that the president, who should protect the lives and safety of the people, violated the Constitution and the responsibility to be sincere under the National Civil Servant Law. The Constitutional Court also judged that if the rescue team on the Korea Coast Guard’s Speedboat 123 promptly instructed passengers to evacuate the sinking ship when it arrived at the site of the accident, more lives would have been saved.

The public will not trust the government that has failed to protect people’s right to life. The Public Safety and Security Ministry was inaugurated with the aim of constructing a ‘system for systematic management of disaster prevention and safety’ in November 2014, but large-scale safety accidents have yet to decrease in number. The joint investigation team of prosecution and police cited the ferry’s lack of stability due to its expansion through remodeling, and defective fixing of freight within the ferry as causes of the ship’s sinking, but rumors of conspiracy including the National Intelligence Service’s involvement and the ferry’s clash with a U.S. submarine spread due in part to the public’s distrust in the government. By conducting scientific inspection of the lifted ferry, Korea should ensure that rumors will no longer emerge or circulate.

Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the main opposition Minjoo Party, said on Thursday, “As soon as the next administration inaugurates, it will form a Phase 2 Special Investigation Committee and probe the reason the raising of the ferry has been delayed.” However, if another special investigation is formed again after the Phase 1 Special Investigation Committee underwent disruptions due to biased political ideology of its members, chances are high that the new committee will only intensify conflict and hostility, rather than healing the scar. Just ahead of the presidential election, the political circle should not reinjure the scar and pain of the tragic accident, and thus revive anger anew to stage political instigation. It is time that Korea overcame national sadness and moved forward.