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(24,395 posts)
Tue Apr 16, 2024, 08:26 AM Apr 16

April 16, 2024. The 10th Anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Disaster in Korea

On April 16, 2014, the Sewol Ferry sank off the southern coast of South Korea killing 304 of the 472 people on board (passengers and crew), 250 of which were High School students from Danwon High School going to Jeju for their class trip.

I was living in Korea when it happened. It was the worst tragedy in my two decades there, surpassing the subway fire in 2003. It was the worst act of corporate negligence in Korea since the mid-90s.
At the time, all my daughters were in elementary school or kindergarten. To this day, I don't know what I would have done had it been one of my children that were on that ship.
This disaster is what happens when you have almost zero oversight and rules regarding safety are blatantly ignored.

The ship was carrying 185 cars and over 2000 tons of cargo on a ship that had a maximum allowance of 987 tons capacity. The cars and other cargo were not properly secured
The Captain was not the regular captain. The regular captain, Shin, had warned the company on numerous occasions about the ship's deficiencies, and was warned by the company of repercussions if he didn't cease.
Captain Lee, the captain for this voyage, was in his mid-60s and had 40 years of sailing expertise. His crew ere 33, mostly irregular workers unfamiliar with the ship.
Modifications to the ship completed January 24, 2014, had been deemed to make the ship less stable.

At around just before 8:50 the boat began to list to the right. The crew tried to turn the ship left but it continued listing to the right and towards the water. The cargo all shifted toward the list and the ship continued to fall over in the water. There was no way to right the ship.
The captain called for everyone to stay put in their quarters. Never were there any instructions given by the Captain to abandon ship -- even when he abandoned he ship along with some of the crew: Captain Lee. the 1st Mate and 2nd Mates all were rescued.

The South Korean Coast Guard, in a very Keystone Cops like manner, had trouble locating the ship, gave conflicting orders, seemed uncertain what to do, as passengers jumped off the ship, local fishing boats rescued the bulk of them, not the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard never made any attempt to board the ship to save people.
The Coast Guard would eventually order the fishing boats to leave the area.
Scuba Divers from the Korean Army Special Warfare Command arrived, but they were not trained for dives like this.
A US Navy ship arrived in the area but was told they were not needed -- I guess a ship with highly trained divers are not needed to save passengers trapped in a sinking ship.
A little after 1 pm the ship was completely under water.
The Coast Guard's inadequacies was watched on television by an outraged public.

A private diving company sent divers to assist. As they were better trained than both the Navy and Coast Guard for this kind of dive. But, their efforts were delayed because President Park arrived and the Coast Guard wanted the space to pump in air to the ship which they knew would do no good, but they wanted to look good in front of her.
President Park was slow to react because she sought counsel with her spiritual advisor and was unavailable for several hours. When she did appear, she did not seem to have any idea about specifics -- almost as if she hadn't been briefed

250 students, 12 of their teachers, 3 crew members died saving others, a father and his seven year old son were among those who died.
The Vice-Principal at Danwon that arranged the rip was so grief stricken he hanged himself two days after the sinking.
It has had a sobering effect on Korean Society. In some cases, it has caused a split -- there are conservatives that resent the Sewol Ferry debacle brought down Park Geun-hye and are not shy about expressing their anger.
The government used many resources to shut down any criticism of it.

Some of the stories are heartbreaking:
One mother said she was on the phone with her sister when her son called. She decided to continue with her call and would call him back, not knowing he was on a sinking ship. She never got to speak to him.
One mother talked of how she wanted a new family photo because the most recent one was when her daughter was in elementary school. She decided to wait until her daughter returned from her class trip.

The first video is the Academy Award Nominated "In the Absence" If you want to see blithering incompetence. This is it. The documentary has the radio communications between the rescue parties with written commentary and some interviews

The 2nd Video is a short video of the parents of the students removing and boxing up the items from the Shrines for the Students that were made in their classrooms. It's hard to watch the grief. I don't know how they do it sometimes. Especially those that had only one child

The 3rd Video is of the Shrines made in each of the classrooms. The items on the desks were placed/chosen by their parents and classmates. It is a song that shows the desks and has the names of all that died

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