About the Tragedy

About the Tragedy

 At 9 p.m. on April 15th, 2014, the Sewol Ferry left Incheon for Jeju Island. The original departure time of 6:30 p.m. had been delayed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The total number of passengers was 476, including 73 general passengers, 31 truckers, 33 crew members, and 325 students and 14 teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, who were on a school field trip.

At 8:49 a.m. on April 16th, the Sewol ferry altered its course drastically around the Maenggol Channel, which is notorious for its strong underwater currents. The ferry soon lost its balance and began to incline. As the ferry drifted away, one of the students from Danwon High School called 119 for rescue. It was 8:52 a.m. Although the ferry was sinking, only one announcement was repeated over the loudspeaker: “Stay in place. Do not move.” At 9:34 a.m., National Maritime Police Ship 123 arrived.

Seven of the engine crew abandoned the passengers and escaped from the ship, then the other crewmen followed. 172 passengers were rescued before the ship completely capsized and sank at 10:30 a.m., however, not one person has been found since (as of November 2018, the number of victims is reported to be 299, along with 5 missing). In such unforeseen circumstances, most press reported that everyone on board was rescued, which turned out to be incorrect, and the Coast Guard and Rescue Authority became the subject of distrust by the victims and the people of Korea.

The court penalized 15 crewmen from the Sewol ferry for charges of murder, attempted murder, professional negligence resulting in the sinking of the ship, and violation of maritime law, but only 1 person from Ship 123 was prosecuted due to their role in being in charge of failure to rescue and leading passengers to death.

Despite numerous investigations conducted by the Public Prosecutors’ Office, the Board of Audit and Inspection, and other special probing committees, the real truth of the tragedy has not yet been revealed. A proper investigation and punishment of those responsible also has not yet finished. The salvage work, which was supposed to be completed by July 2016, was finally accomplished on April 11th, 2017. Identification of the cause of the sinking, the government response failure, salvage process adequacy, and other proper investigation and punishment still remain as major tasks.