Korean Ferry Disaster

Korean Ferry Disaster25 posts

The South Korean passenger ferry MV Sewol capsized while en route from Incheon to Jeju City. It carried 3608 tonnes (3977 US tons) of cargo (three times the legal limit) and reportedly had 476 people on board, mostly students from Danwon High School in Ansan City, although the actual number of passengers is uncertain. Hundreds died in the sinking, which has been blamed primarily on a sudden turn which shifted the cargo and made the ship unmanageable. The disaster also has led to widespread criticism of the captain and most of the crew, as well as of the company that owns the ferry, regulatory agencies that certified the ship as safe, and the government for its slow response.

27 Oct, 2014

Prosecutors ask for death penalty

South Korean prosecutors seek the death penalty for Joon-Seok, captain of the ferry that sank earlier this year. Prosecutors blame Joon-Seok’s negligence for the death of over 300 people in the disaster. Prosecutors:

The captain made no rescue efforts after issuing a broadcast asking passengers to stay in their cabins. … He didn’t organize any rescue operations after leaving the ship.

17 Aug, 2014

Victim’s father baptised

The Pope baptises 62-year-old Lee Ho-Jin, the father of one of the victims from the Sewol Ferry tragedy, at Seoul Nunciature 0n Sunday.  He meets with some of the family members from the ferry tragedy before Mass with thousands of Koreans at the World Cup stadium in Daejon. Last week Lee had completed a pilgrimage from the site of the ferry disaster to Daejeon, to help overcome the grief of losing his son. Vatican spokesperson:

The pope was only too happy to be able to conduct an unscheduled baptism of an adult into the Korean Church

9 Jul, 2014

Ferry was operating illegally


The MV Sewol was operating illegally when it capsized in April, 2014, killing 300 people.  A report by state officials says the operating license was obtained by presenting fraudulent safety papers, although exactly how officials were deceived is not being disclosed.  The owners and crew of the Sewol are facing charges for negligent actions  that facilitated the sinking of the ferry and failed to prevent the death of most of those on the ferry. Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the Sewol, has been charged with murder for fleeing the sinking vessel.

26 Jun, 2014

Prime Minister stays


South Korea’s president has decided to retain the country’s current prime minister, Chung Hong.  Hong had offered to step down as Prime Minister, the number two spot in the country’s government, in an attempt to quell the anger of the country’s citizens after the ferry disaster.  An attempt to replace Hong was made by President Park Geun-hye, but the two possible candidates withdrew their names.  The main liberal opposition party is criticizing President Park’s decision and calling it an acknowledgement of the government’s incompetence.

13 Jun, 2014

Yoo’s brother arrested


South Korean police arrest Yoo Byung-il, who is Yoo Byung-un‘s elder brother, near the Evangelical Baptist Church compound in Anseong.  Charges against him are not released officially, but the Yonhap news agency reports that he was a consultant for Chonghaejin Marine and has been arrested for alleged embezzlement and fraud-related real estate deals.

11 Jun, 2014

Church raided again

About 5,000 police, some with helmets and riot shields, raid the Evangelical Baptist Church’s compound in Anseong again.  There are no reports of violence, although some 200 church members rally, carrying a banner that says “We’ll protect Yoo Byung-eun even if 100,000 church members are all arrested.”  Police arrest four members for allegedly helping Yoo and pick up another member on charges of obstructing the raid.

28 May, 2014

Yoo’s daughter arrested


Yoo Som-Na, daughter of the billionaire wanted in connection with the ferry’s sinking, is arrested in Paris on an international warrant.  Ms. Yoo is detained under house arrest for now, but a judge will decide tomorrow whether she must be taken into custody pending her extradition to South Korea.  Extradition could take many months if she fights it.

26 May, 2014

Rewards boosted for tips


South Korea raises the amount of a reward for information on the whereabouts of Yoo Byung-eun ten-fold to $500,000, the same amount paid for information on a North Korean spy.  Yoo faces charges of negligence, embezzlement and tax evasion.  The bounty on his eldest son, who is wanted for embezzlement, is also raised from $30,000 to $100,000.

21 May, 2014

Church raided

South Korean authorities search the large Anseong compound of the Evangelical Baptist Church in spite of a sit-in by hundreds of followers who call the raid religious persecution.  The church was co-founded by Yoo Byung-un, who is wanted for tax evasion, embezzlement and negligence charges related to the investment vehicle owned by his sons that ran the shipping company Chonghaejin Marine.  Warrants are also out for Yoo’s sons, the younger of whom is believed to be in the US.  Prosecutors say that they don’t expect Yoo and his eldest son to be in the Anseong compound, where Yoo has a photography studio, but investigators are looking for other evidence there. Kim Hoe-jong, a senior prosecutor says:

Again, this investigation is about personal wrongdoings on the part of Yoo Byung-un and sons related to the management of Chonghaejin Marine.It has nothing to do with religion.

19 May, 2014

President apologizes, will disband coast guard

President Park Geun-hye apologizes for the disaster and says she will disband the coast guard, which has been criticized for not saving more passengers.  Park’s approval ratings have been significantly lower since the ferry sank.  Police will take charge of investigation and information.  Rescue and salvage operations, as well as ocean security, will be transferred to a new department for national safety.

15 May, 2014

Four crew members indicted for homicide

An indictment is filed in Gwangju District Court against 15 crew members, all involved in navigation.  The 15 charged were among the first people rescued. Captain Lee Joon-Seok and three other crew members face homicide charges for failing to carry out their duty to protect passengers, which led to their death.  If convicted, they could face the death penalty.  Eleven other crew members are indicted for alleged negligence and abandoning passengers in need.  The trial date will be decided in a few days.

12 May, 2014

Three crew members named national martyrs

South Korea recognizes as national martyrs three part-time crew members who died saving others.  Kim Ki-woong and Jung Hyun-seon, who were engaged, could have left the sinking ferry but stayed behind to rescue passengers.  Park Ji-young gave her life jacket to one of the passengers she was guiding to safety.  The recognition allows these three to be buried at a national cemetery.  As well, their families are eligible for benefits that include financial compensation and medical assistance.

10 May, 2014

275 dead, 29 missing

Strong winds and rough seas force rescuers to temporarily call off the search. Weather warnings are up for the area until Monday, 12 May. With the recovery of two more bodies yesterday, the toll now stands at 275, with 29 missing.  An official at Jindo tells reporters:

Waves are rising to the point that they are wetting the deck of the barge that is being used as the staging area for divers.

8 May, 2014

CEO arrested


Senior prosecutor Yang Joong-jin announces the arrest of Kim Han-sik, who is Cheonghaejin Marine Company’s CEO.  Kim faces charges of causing death by negligence and causing the ship’s capsizing in the line of duty.  Because of allegations that the Sewol’s excessive cargo and its crew’s failure to tie that cargo down properly contributed to the sinking, the CEO is also charged with violating the ship safety act.  Investigators say they have indicted four employees, including a senior executive, in the last two weeks, although details about charges aren’t available.  The current death toll from the sinking is 269.

5 May, 2014

South Korea promises regulatory changes

South Korea’s Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries and other groups promise new monitoring and regulations for domestic passenger ships that aren’t covered by international law.  Beginning in June, all passenger information will be processed electronically; this will apply to vehicles and cargo in July.  Data recorders will be installed on ferries.  Officials will look at setting a speed limit on the area where the Sewol sank.  The government also says it will propose a ban on redesign of ships for more passenger space. It will also consider taking on the responsibility for safety inspections, now done by a private industry group.

1 May, 2014

Criminal investigation widens

Eleven crew members are under arrest.  South Korean authorities search the offices of 20 affiliates of Cheonghaejin Marine Co., the ferry’s owner.  The Yonhap News Agency reports that authorities have also searched the home of Yoo Byung-eun, a billionaire who, together with his two sons, controls the shipping company that operated the Sewol.  Investigators reportedly seek evidence of possible wrongdoing in regard to the ship’s safety inspection.  The cause of the accident is still unknown.

30 Apr, 2014

210 confirmed dead


The recovery of 5 more bodies brings the confirmed death toll up to 210.  Ninety-two people still are missing.  Rescuers will attempt to use a diving bell to provide oxygen for divers, although the coast guard has said such bells aren’t useful because of fast currents in the disaster area.

22 Apr, 2014

More than 100 confirmed dead


More than 100 are confirmed dead.  There are 174 surviving passengers.  Authorities say 198 people are still missing.  Rescuers have difficulty reaching the ferry’s restaurant, where it is believed most of the missing were trapped.  An undersea robot will be used in an attempt to raise the hull.

20 Apr, 2014

Panic on the bridge

Transcripts, released by the coast guard, show the ferry’s crew panicking during their last communications with controllers at Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Centre.

Excerpt, recorded 29 minutes after the Sewol’s  first distress call:

Controller: “Please go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing.”

Crew member: “If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?”

Controller: “At least make them wear life rings and make them escape.”

Crew member: “If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?”

Controller: “Don’t let them go bare. At least make them wear life rings and make them escape… We don’t know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you’re going to evacuate passengers or not.”

Crew member: “I’m not talking about that. I asked, if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?”

Only a few seconds before the final communication did it become clear to controllers that an evacuation of the ferry had been ordered.

19 Apr, 2014

Captain, 2 crew members arrested


Captain Lee Joon-Seok, the third mate (unnamed), and helmsman Cho Joon-Ki are arrested.    Head bowed, the captain tries to explain some of his actions and apologizes to the families of the victims before being led off to jail.  Then Cho tells reporters that the ship’s steering gear turned farther than it was supposed to.  The third mate, who was at the wheel at the beginning of the accident and navigating the route for the first time, says nothing as she is led away.

18 Apr, 2014

Rescued school official kills self

Kang Min-kyu, 52, vice principal of Danwon High School, which some of the missing students attended, is found hanging from a pine tree behind a Jindo sports stadium.  After his rescue from the sinking “Sewol,” Kang had been out of contact and police had been looking for him. Upon hearing the news, a relative of one of those still missing shouts that the official’s suicide is a dishonorable act and a betrayal to survivors.

Twenty-eight people have been confirmed dead so far, including 11 Danwon students and 3 teachers.  Among the 268 still missing are 247 students and 11 teachers from Danwon.

17 Apr, 2014

Captain not at helm during wreck

A state prosecutor says that Captain Lee Joon Suk was not in the steering room when the ferry “Sewol” began listing and then flipped over for reasons that are still unclear, although there are unconfirmed reports that the vessel became unbalanced when it made a sharp turn that forced vehicles and cargo on board to shift.

Lee was among 179 people rescued soon after the accident.  Twenty-five are confirmed dead and 271 are still missing.  When seen coming out of a South Korean Coast Guard office, his head and face covered, the captain told reporters, “I am sorry, I am at a loss for words,” and then broke down in tears.

16 Apr, 2014

Military reports ferry sinking

South Korea’s military reports that a ferry with some 350 people aboard, including students on a field trip, is sinking about 12-1/2 miles (20 km) from Jindo Island in southwestern Korea.  The ferry sailed from Incheon for Jeju Island.  No details on casualties or what caused the accident are available yet.  Rescue craft have been sent to the area.

High death toll feared

While 175 passengers and crew members of the sunken ferry “Sewol” have been rescued, 281 – many of them high school students – are still missing.  Some survivors report that passengers were told to remain in their seats and may have stayed there until it was too late.  Nine people are confirmed dead, including four students, two teachers and a crew member.  The “Sewol” is now almost completely submerged and strong tides are keeping divers from entering the wreck.  Meanwhile, anguished parents wait on nearby Jindo Island for more information.

Rescue video

South Korean television shows the ferry sinking 60 miles (100 km) south of the Korean peninsula, and coast guard crews making rescues.  Authorities report that 164 are saved thus far, 2 are reportedly dead, and more than 300 are still missing.

Dramatic rescue footage: Coastguards save people from sinking South Korea ferry

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