28 Dead, 268 Still Missing in South Korean Ferry Sinking

A South Korean ferry heading to a resort island sank on April 16, 2014 with hundreds of passengers, including 325 high school students, on board. It has been two days since the accident and 28 people are confirmed dead as of April 18 and 268 people are still missing. Their chances of survival are very slim.

Three images below have been shared publicly by the South Korean Coast Guard's Facebook page [ko]. The first photo shows the boat's captain amongst the first group to be rescued.

Image of the rescue operation, Image shared by Korean Coast Guard

Image shared publicly by South Korean Coast Guard's Facebook page

Image of Sewol ferry rescue operation, Image shared by Korean Coast Guard

Image of Sewol ferry rescue operation, shared by Korean Coast Guard's Facebook Page

Image of Rescue Operation, Image shared by Korean Coast Guard's Facebook page

Image of Rescue Operation, shared by Korean Coast Guard's Facebook page

South Korean online venues have been inundated with messages of condolences for the victims and their loved ones and intense anger against the captain and crew members who evacuated early [ko], well before most of the passengers. In particular, the on board announcement which told the passengers to stay still [ko], even after the ferry started tilting, has further fueled the furor.

During the 2003 Daegu Subway fire disaster, a majority of passengers died as the train conductor ran away after plucking away the master key. I hear the stories that the Sewol ferry’s captain and the conductor evacuated early. I wish it is false. If that is true, then they can't be forgiven nor escape punishment.

The captain, after ordering a low-ranking female crew member to announce that the passengers should stay where they are, escaped well before anybody else. It reminds me of the historical event during the Korean War – when President Rhee Seung-man, after broadcasting that “now it is safe”, ran away after cutting the Han River bridge. It's been over 60 years, but the history stays the same.

Authorities still can't confirm what caused the incident, and various speculations have sprung up, including that the ferry could have hit a rock. Currently, many blame the fact that the ship went through illegal remodeling [ko] to host more passengers. Korean net users discussed the unsolved mysteries.

There are remaining questions: 1) How was the ferry wrecked in an area with no reef and on a clear weather day 2) There is a big dent on the right side of the hull. 3) Announcing “stay put” while the ship started tilting 4) The crew and captain evacuated first 5) The distress call was made at 8:58 by a passenger 6) Local fisherman noticed there is something wrong with Sewol at 7:30.

Many blamed sensational and insensitive media coverage.

If you look at Munhwa newspaper's initial report, you can see how lazy they were in reporting this issue. MBC talks about [the insurance] money even before the rescue operation has ended. KBS focuses more on the president's reaction than the survivors and updates on the rescue mission (by blogger with the online handle of “I am Peter”)

The rescue mission is under way. However, the victims’ relatives and families have released a statement [ko] lashing out that information is still lacking and the scale of the rescue team has been greatly exaggerated.

도착시간 5시 30분쯤 진도 실내체육관 비상상황실에 와보니 책임을 가지고 상황을 정확히 판단해주는 관계자가 아무도 없었습니다다. 심지어 상황실도 없었습니다다.[…] 어제 현장을 방문했습니다. 인원은 200명도 안됐고, 헬기는 단 두대. 배는 군함 두척. 경비정 2척. 특수부대 보트 6대. 민간구조대원 8명이 구조작업 했습니다다. 9시 대한민국 재난본부에서는 인원 투입 555명. 헬기 121대. 배 169척으로 우리아이들을 구출하고 있다고 거짓말 했습니다.

When we arrived at 5:30 at the Jindo gymnasium emergency center, there was not a single staff member who was responsible for telling people what's going on. There was not even a control center […] We visited the accident scene yesterday. The rescue team was less than 200. There were only two helicopters, two marine boats, two coast guard boats, six special forces boats. And eight civil rescue team members have carried out the rescue mission. However, the Disaster Headquarters have lied to us that they have dispatched 555 rescue team members, 121 helicopters and 169 boats.

**Further update is to come about the disaster.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site