The sunken Korean ferry that went down off the South Korean coast has not only lead to the death of hundreds of people, but also to jail for crew members, the suicide of a teacher, and resignation of the country’s premier. Ten days after the tragic accident only 361 of the 476 passengers on board the boat when she sank, had been rescued or their bodies recovered.
With a nation mourning, it was announced yesterday that all 15 of the navigation crew members who had been on board the stricken ferry, had been taken into custody and would soon be facing charges of criminal negligence. These include the captain Lee Joon-seok and at least two other of the crew who are all likely to be charged with abandoning their passengers and neglecting their duties.
Already unofficial public charges have been made that the captain, along with several of his crew, clearly left the ship while it was sinking with hundreds of people still on board. It has been alleged that very few of the lifeboats were used, that the crew was not properly trained to evacuate the vessel, and that passengers were told to stay inside their cabins and wait for further instructions. Last Friday divers searching the ferry found the bodies of 48 learners, all with life jackets, crammed into a “room” on the vessel that was designed for little more than 30.
The ferry was seen to list to one side after making a very sharp turn before capsizing in an area that is known to be very difficult to navigate because of exceptionally strong currents. Theories are that the person at the helm at the time of the incident was inexperienced; that the ferry might have been carrying too much freight; or that a renovation to the cabins a year or so ago might have affected the boat’s balance. It is also thought that wind and ocean currents might have played a negative role.
What is not in any dispute is that the sunken Korean ferry has resulted in absolute misery, with the death of hundreds of passengers – some not yet found, as well as the suicide of the desperate teacher who felt it was unfair that he had survived while so many had perished. There is also no dispute that the incident lead to the arrest of the crew who are currently sitting in jail, and the resignation of the country’s premier, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won.
Reports today state that the PM offered to resign because the government of South Korea initially reported that everybody had been rescued from the Korean ferry after it sank. This has led to harsh accusations that the government’s regulatory controls are very poor. His resignation was officially accepted today by President Park Geun-hye. However, it has been announced that he will continue in his post as premier until the “rescue operation” has been completed.
Most of the dead and missing are from Ansan’s Danwon High School, which is where Kang Min Kyu taught ethics. The 52-year-old vice principal could not live with the fact that he was rescued from the sinking ferry while so many of his pupils died, and he hanged himself from a tree in Jindo city. According to reports, his suicide followed an effort to support the families of those dead or missing. Some people “directed their anger at him” another teacher said, and he was “brokenhearted.” Soon after he was dead by his own hand! His own family, a wife, son and two daughters, attended his very short funeral on Monday last week.
Hundreds of divers are still searching for bodies presumed to be on the sunken Korean ferry, while investigators continue to look for more clues on what really did lead to the death of so many people, as well as the suicide of an innocent man and resignation of their country’s premier. All this information will be presented in court when the crew, currently sitting in jail, are formally charged.
By Penny Swift