04/03/2017 Special > Reviews
Sewol Resurfaced- A Record of 1037 Days
The 4/16 marine disaster and the salvaged Sewol ferry
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At 8:55 AM on 16th April 2014, a ferry with 476 people on board capsized and began to sink in the middle of the sea at Jindo, South Jeolla province. Out of the passengers, 304 people have been determined dead or missing. 250 people on board were students leaving to Jeju Island for their school excursion trip from Danwon High School. At the age of 17, young and promising students lost their lives. The remaining 50-odd people, who were teachers, crew members and others, also gave out their final breaths in the deep ocean.
On 23rd March 2017, the ferry Sewol has been dragged out of the water with grief. Citizens and the bereaved families had been, and stil are, lamenting the tragedy for as long as 1037 days. Resentment towards the incompetent government, the deep sorrow for lost lives, and ongoing interrogation concerning those behind the incident still cut across a wide swath of South Korea.
Vestige of the 1037 days
April 16 of 2014 was the day governmental institutes of South Korea proved themselves to be inadequate. The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters altered its announcements regarding the number of the rescued from all saved to 368 to 164 in five hours. In the acute situation, families and people concerned with the losses had their hearts tormented. Also, the captain of ferry Sewol- Lee Jun-seok did not announce any leaving instructions to the passengers, and left the ferry alone in his underwear. With all lifeboats wrecked and all crew members bunged off, 304 students and passengers slowly were confronted with death.
Absence of the control tower also enraged the bereaved and the citizens. Former president Park Geun-hye revealed her appearance seven hours after the incident occurred. The mysterious whereabouts of Park- the one person who must have shared the agony of the losses, is still unknown.
The official searching operation for the missing passengers continued for eight months, and was completed on November 11. On April 22 of 2015, which is a year after the incident, the government decides to refloat the hull. Since then, suicidal scandals of the assistant principal and the president of Cheonghaejin Shipping Corporation, suspicions regarding ferry Sewol and the exceeded amount of military commodities loaded up in the luggage room, and discords between the families of the deceased threw Korea into the utter confusion.
The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries organized the ferry Sewol’s resolving Task Force team to prepare salving the sunken vessel. However, people’s suspicious glances never halted, as the government kept announcing the excessive cost of the task and enacting special laws on ferry Sewol. The special laws on ferry Sewol was granting university admission privileges for the survivors, life-long financial supports, construction of memorial parks, and more.
These favors, according to JTBC, are not asserted by the families of the deceased. However, this news began to stir up grievance and disturbance between people and the concerned.
After much meandering, the salvage operation was embarked on. However, the doubts on salvage enterprise selection began to rise on the surface. The Dutch salvage company, “Smit Consortium” was evaluated as the first, while the Chinese company “Shanghai Salvage” was evaluated the second. However, these two companies had 60 billion dollars difference and the Korean government selected Shanghai Salvage.
The Chinese salvage company affirmed of the operation due date by July of 2016. However, their technique “floating dock” failed, and the due date was extended. After the six months long trial, the salvage company renounced its technique and switched to the ordinary method and demanded 10 billion more dollars.
Former president Park has been impeached on March 10 of 2017. The ferry Sewol has been successfully refloated and has greeted sunshine for the first time in 1037 days. The families of the deceased passengers on ferry Sewol encountered their closest tragedy. The recovery operation of the ferry is still on going, until all bodies lost under the sea are found.
The distrusted government
The South Korean government under President Park has kicked off its ambitious beginning in 2013. However, the Anti-Terrorism Act, a government-designed history textbook, and the agreement to the Japanese Government for appeasing sexual slaves at the former Japanese military with money caused enormous resistance and collision between main political parties.
In 2014, ferry Sewol that sank with 250 high school students and 54 passengers aroused doubts on the government’s ability to handle national matters. Also, the mysterious whereabouts of President Park during the disaster and settlements of this affair also brought about the seriousness and trustworthiness of the government. Then in 2016, the influence peddling incident of Choi Sun-shil in the South Korean government under President Park was officially covered on the news. The citizens were furious and they walked to the streets to appeal their resentment. The head of the government had to step down.
When the government was selecting the salvage company to refloat the ferry Sewol, the primary concern of them was the cost. Perhaps, the most expensive cost of salvage was not 140 billion dollars of the Dutch salvage consortium, but the distrust of the people.
The ferry Sewol shipped with students of Danwon High School who had to return from their field trip on Friday the 18th of April in 2014 came back on Friday the 24th of March in 2017. The long journey of them awakens the citizen to vote for their new, just government.
Kim Ju-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
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