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Seven years after the Sewol ferry disaster, rescued families still urge the government to reveal the truth – The Diplomat


On April 16, 2014, the Sewol ferry running from Incheon to Jeju sank. The ferry lands around 8:50 a.m., when Koreans are on their way to work and school. This news shook the whole country, but at first, they returned to their daily lives with relief: The media hot news that all passengers on board had been saved. However, it soon becomes clearly false. That day was a dire day for Koreans as they went through the complicated emotions of watching the news: surprise, relief, shock, and sadness.

The Coast Guard and civilian divers mobilized rescue efforts, but they missed the golden moment. While many of the passengers on the sinking ship were gradually injured in rising water, the public had no choice but to pray and watch. According to media reports, private fishing boats have concluded rescue more passengers than the Coast Guard at the scene, prompting many South Koreans to question the agency’s efforts.

The final death toll reveals a tragedy: 304 out of 476 passengers were killed; Five of the bodies were never found. Of the 299 dead, 250 were sophomore high school students. Like so many other students, they went on a trip to Jeju Island, the most beautiful place in Korea, in the clear blue spring of April. They cannot go home.

The sunken ferry was not raised to the water until March 23, 2017. It took the government about three years to decide the best way to pull the ship out of the water. By that time, some parts of the hull had rusted, many parts were no longer identifiable. Tears of the bereaved as he watched the ship lifted up to its crib. Their pain and heartache are incurable.

It is clear that tragedy is associated with leadership failure. Park Geun-hye, the president of South Korea at the time, did not appear in public for about 7 hours after the ship sank. report. Park had been in her bedroom the whole time without moving to her office, though she was notified by the head of the National Security Office of the accident in the morning, according to reports. . Meanwhile, the head of the control tower, where disasters need to be handled quickly, was not loyal to protecting the lives and safety of the people. During that time, the response of the Coast Guard and the government was not acceptable.

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On the ferry itself, captain escape first without helping passengers to escape. Meanwhile, the passengers were told Stay on the sunken ship patiently waiting for the rescue that never comes. Believing what the authorities told them turned out to be a fatal mistake.

Seven years have passed since then. Several people directly involved in the disaster, including the captain, were sentenced in prison, but the bereaved family said they have yet to fully discover the cause and truth of the disaster. One point of particular controversy was that no one was in charge of the Coast Guard or the control tower responsible for failure response. In January of this year, the prosecutor’s special investigation team concluded that there was no ground to charge the Coast Guard negligence.

Meanwhile, there are still questions about why the ship sank, and why the passengers were not rescued. The bereaved families have repeatedly asked similar questions since the ship sank. What did the President do that day during the disaster? If the ship sank because of the turn, why did the crew turn around in the first place?

The bereaved family assessed that they would not be able to hear answers to these questions until the Park regime was replaced in 2017. But they hope to receive a shutdown under new President Moon Jae. -in, who used to be the leader of the main opposition party and asked them the same questions. But with less than a year left in Moon’s term, families are still on the streets to ask for answers.

Yoo Kyung-geun, head of the Sewol Victims Family Committee, told The Diplomat that the victim’s family is asking basic questions but has yet to receive a response from the government, politician and prosecutor. .

“If the reason for the ship to sink was the turn, we should know why a pilot would turn in that situation, but we still don’t have an answer about it,” Yoo said.

In the past seven years, no one has been able to pinpoint the exact cause of the Sewol ferry sinking. Various investigative committees have tried to answer the question, but have not come to a clear conclusion.

Other questions remain. “It has been revealed since 2014 through investigations and trials that the Coast Guard has not attempted or taken steps to rescue passengers. So the question we were asking is why the Coast Guard didn’t do anything, ”Yoo said.

In seven years, special investigative committee and prosecutors’ investigations have revealed many facts about the disaster, but no investigation has been conducted as to why the Coast Guard did not. significant response.

To this day, no one knows what the National Intelligence Service and the President of the Green House did on the day of the disaster. That’s because Hwang Kyo-ahn, former prime minister of Park, point The record of Park’s activities on the day of the disaster is that of the president when he became acting president after Park was impeached. That means the general public – including bereaved families – cannot access those records for up to 30 years.

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One lawyer, Song Ki-ho, filed a lawsuit in June 2017 to gain access to the filing. The first trial ruled that the records should be accessible, but the decision was dismissed due to the appeal, and the bereaved family has yet to access the records. The Supreme Court ruling will be final, but the top court has yet to make a decision more than two years after the end of the second court hearing.

“It was clear and important to know what the Green House did that day, but the prosecutor didn’t even address this part of the investigation,” said Yoo. Yoo also added that they cannot rule out the possibility that Green House officials destroyed the record at the time.

While the bereaved have been asking the government to reveal the truth for seven years, some have be disparaged Their efforts, say family members are seeking compensation. Prosecutor’s special investigation team to speak During a press conference the Defense Security Command and the National Intelligence Service wrote a report on mourning.

Government agencies have sought to contempt and distort the needs of bereavement, and have even started investigating them starting the day after the disaster. It has also been confirmed that the government has attempted to manipulate public opinion by using internet users, far-right websites and organizations. In other words, instead of trying to handle the disaster responsibly, government agencies and the Green House at the time targeted grieving families for a smear campaign. The bereaved family constantly faced allegations that all of their requests were for the purpose of making money.

“In the early days, we couldn’t understand the response. But for reasons that were revealed, we were able to understand why we went through that, ”Yoo said.

However, Yoo said that government-created framing is still prevalent in society. He was still in pain when he heard that the disaster was just a “sea traffic accident”.

Meanwhile, many laws have been passed to facilitate disaster clarification. However, results from the government and investigative agencies did not touch on the deepest issues. After seven years of investigation and no results come to fruition, many Koreans feel tired and mourning for it.

“Our view is that the Moon administration should find the truth and solve all truth-finding tasks that require the punishment and responsibility of the law,” Yoo said. He added that the funeral hopes the Moon administration does not transfer the responsibility of revealing the truth of the disaster to the next government.

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