South Korean President Considers Raising the Sunken Sewol Ferry

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korean President Park Geun-hye pledged Monday to consider salvaging the Sewol ferry that sank off Jindo Island last year and killed more than 300 passengers aboard.

“I will actively consider salvaging the ship after accepting the opinions of relatives of those still missing and experts,” Park said during a meeting with her senior aides, according to Agence France-Presse.

On April 16, the overloaded Sewol ferry capsized while making a sharp turn, leaving 304 dead or missing. More than two-thirds of the passengers were high school students on a school trip to the resort island of Jeju. Only 75 students survived.

The tragedy sparked a nationwide grief and public criticism directed at President Park’s administration for its delayed and uncoordinated emergency response. As a result, the South Korean parliament passed three bills last November aimed at overhauling national safety standards, including dismantling and reforming the Coast Guard the National Emergency Management Agency.

Last week, the South Korean government announced their compensation proposal, promising to pay about 420 million won (US $380,000) for each of the 250 students who died in the sinking. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries also announced that the families of the 11 teachers who died in the tragedy would receive on average 763.9 million won (US $692,930) while relatives of other victims would receive between 150 million won to 600 million won depending on age and income.

However, the compensation plan has angered many of the grieving families, who are accusing the government of diverting attention from their demands of an independent probe. Some relatives argued that the ferry should be raised before the compensation process begins.

On April 2, dozens of deceased students’ parents shaved their heads in protest to the compensation package. Over the weekend, hundreds of the victims’ relatives and their supporters marched 22 miles (35 kilometers) to Seoul from their hometown Ansan.

“If a conclusion is reached that [the ship’s] recovery is technically feasible, [we] will gather the opinions of the families of the missing and experts, as well as public opinion and actively consider raising the hull,” Park said, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The search for the missing Sewol victims ended last November due to inclement weather and safety risks to the divers. Park’s office said that raising the ferry is estimated to cost 120 billion won (US $110 million).


Featured image by Ed Jones/AFP Photo.

UPDATE: The estimated cost for raising the Sewol ferry has been updated for this article. 

subscribe button