[Writer's Choice] Remembering Sewol

Jun Ko, April 16, 2018, 6:05 p.m.


April 16, 2018 marks the fourth anniversary of the Sewol Ferry disaster. The incident was deemed a national tragedy as the sinking of the MV Sewol has taken the lives of 304 people, a good amount being high-schoolers who were out on a school excursion. While the sinking had occurred on April 16th, it took several months to restore the bodies of the victims. The death count had reached a total of 294 on July 22, 2014, leaving nine missing as July 22nd marked the day that the last cabin crewmember was discovered. 

It was only last year when the MV Sewol was salvaged from the ocean, meaning that it had remained submerged underwater for three years. The process of retrieving the vessel started on March 22nd, the vessel being fully pulled from the sea on March 23rd. Unfortunately, even with the ferry's retrieval from the sea, only four of the nine missing victims were found. 

The sinking of the MV Sewol was due to a multitude of errors, some being: 
1) MV Sewol carried around 2,000 tons of cargo when its maximum allowance was 987 tons.
2) The cargo was not properly secured. 
3) The voyage has been made without making adjustments to the ballast (a heavy material placed low in a vessel to improve its stability). It was reported that only 761.2 tons of ballast was used (the recommended amount being 2,030 tons) and some of the ballast tanks had not been properly maintained. 

However, the main trigger of the ferry sinking was due to a sudden right turn. The sudden turn had shifted the unsecured cargo to one side, which aided in its capsize. 

The captain of MV Sewol, Lee Joon-Seok, and his crew members were later charged for murder/homicide, negligence, and fleeing/abandoning ship. Captain Lee Joon-Seok was charged with a life sentence, the chief engineer was charged with a 10-year sentence, and the crew members were charged with a 18-month to 12-year sentence. 

The entire event was a black mark on former President Park Geun-Hye's record. She had remained absent throughout the entire disaster and had addressed the nation seven hours after the ferry took on water. Not only had she remained absent through the disaster, but she had also written off the incident as 'just a ferry accident' and focused on the protests that occurred from the incident rather than focusing on salvaging the hull and supporting the victims' families. 

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