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Has anything changed since the ferry disaster?

Posted July. 24, 2014 03:57,   


The police managed to identify the body of Yoo Byung-eon, the former owner of the Semo Group responsible for the Sewol ferry disaster after 40 days from when they found the body as they thought it was a different person’s body. Prosecutors who instructed the handling of the body overlooked the old man’s body which was found near the summer house from which Yoo ran away. They wasted police forces and their investigation power. They seem like Jindo VTS which was complacent at the time of the ferry disaster, the Coast Guard which made the situation worse by making wrong judgment on site, and the government that failed to identify the exact number of missing people.

It turned out that the head-on collision between a commuter train and a tourist train in Gangwon Province which killed one person and injured 91 people was due to the carelessness of a train driver with 21 years of experience. The man-made disaster could have been prevented if the train driver had seen the railroad signal right and the railroad traffic center had done its job right.

A hundred days have passed since the ferry disaster which cost 304 lives. The disaster was a man-made disaster with a mix of the captain who abandoned his work ethics, irresponsible crew members, the greed of a company and its owner, the collusion between the private sector and the government that tolerated illegality, violations and problems, and the absence of the government’s presence. Since the disaster, the people as well as the president have repeatedly resolved not to repeat such accident and change after April 16. Now, it is doubtful whether there is any possibility of change.

President Park Geun-hye said in a press conference to the people on May 19 that the government would restructure the government organization with the creation of the National Safety Agency and reform the country by rooting out the revolving door appointments of former government officials. The government proposed 27 tasks as follow-up measures, but only seven were implemented, which include checking a vessel passenger’s identification before boarding, discussing the construction of the disaster communications network and developing ideas on safer school trips. The bills that allow reforming the government structure, making government officials more transparent and abolishing revolving door appointments are still pending in the National Assembly. So are safety bills. The Sewol Ferry Special Act (bill), which is to probe into the ferry disaster, is still pending in the parliament due to the confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties over investigative power.

This reporter checked safety of coastal liners with expert. Few have changed since the disaster, however. Cargos were not properly latched down. Passengers were indifferent to audio and video announcements on how to wear a life jacket and evacuate the ship. This is not alone. Many people give a lick and a promise in safety checks and evacuation drills. Then, Korea cannot reform itself and become a safe country.