The Lasting Effects of the South Korean Ferry Disaster

AP Photo/Yonhap

As parents and victims of the South Korean ferry disaster continue to grieve and ask for answers, more than 70 surviving students began their first day of classes since the April event that claimed hundreds of their classmates. Some students wearing black and white uniforms bowed their heads crying and walking slowly from the bus to the school, while others stopped to hug the parents of their friends. Adults carried banners of encouragement and prayer for the dead and for those who survived, according to the Associate Press. The somberness and anger many felt at Danwon High School in Ansan, outside Seoul, reflects what many South Koreans have felt since the ferry sunk on April 16 which left more than 200 dead or missing. Of the 325 students who took the ferry to Jeju, a southern holiday island, 75 were rescued, 245 died and 5 are still missing according to the Associated Press.

While the students who survived the ordeal begin classes once again, the courts are conducting hearings for the ferry crew and officials from the company that owned it. Although much of blame or fault falls on the disgraced company and crew, many South Koreans, fault the government, the coast guard and even society for failing the victims, the Associated Press reports. The 15 member crew responsible for navigating the Sewol ferry could be charged with negligence and failing to perform their duties to rescue passengers. Prosecutors are claiming that they abandoned ship with the knowledge that passengers would be trapped and killed in the sinking ferry. The defense has denied any prior knowledge saying the crew members were confused, injured and panicked themselves. After decades of negligence, many South Koreans question the country’s history of ignoring safety issues as it pursued rapid economic growth above all else after the Korean War which began 64 years ago Wednesday with North Korean invasion. According to the Associated Press, the government of President Park Geun-hye, whose father ruled during the economic boom of the 1960s and 1970s dubbed the “Miracle on the Han”, after the river that cuts through Seoul, has been criticized for not doing enough before the sinking on safety and monitoring issues as well as its incompetence during the rescue operations.

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