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Lessons from Sewol

Apr 18,2017
The wave of yellow ribbons swept across the country as the nation commemorated the third anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry that killed 304 passengers, mostly high school students. Citizens on Sunday visited memorials to pay tribute to the dead and recollect the painful memories. They offered condolences and shared the sorrowful day with the victims’ families.

There is still the mission of overcoming the skepticism, distrust and conflict over the Sewol ferry disaster for the national goal of rebuilding this country to make it safe. Investigation into the vessel that was pulled out of the sea and brought to the land and a search of the nine missing bodies must first be thorough. The Sewol ferry that arrived at the Mokpo port on April 11 after staying undersea for 1,091 days is in horrible shape. The government this week will announce its plans and embark on investigations. An independent team comprising eight experts will go into the hull to investigate.

The role of the investigation team is critical. The prosecution and a court singled out the ship’s sudden turn in steering, freight overload and illegal design to make more room for freight as primary causes for the sinking. There had been various rumors about the sinking such as a collision with a submarine and a missile strike, because a clear investigation has so far been impossible. The investigation committee must conduct a thorough and scientific probe to answer to all of the suspicions. It also must comb through the inside of the ship to find and salvage any remains of the missing and dead.

Korea must accelerate the campaign to make this country safe so as not to make the loss of 304 lives in vain. Even after the Sewol sinking, maritime accidents have surged by 70 percent in this country. Safety awareness and actions have improved little despite all the rhetoric.

Presidential candidates must place the highest priorities on our public safety systems. Society must join together with the government, politicians and victims’ families to find a cure and fix for a united and safe community. Only then can we move on.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 17, Page 30