South Korean President Park Geun-hye yesterday promised to consider raising the Sewol ferry that sank a year ago with the loss of more than 300 lives, in response to an emotional protest by victims’ relatives.
“I will actively consider salvaging the ship after accepting the opinions of relatives of those still missing and experts,” Park’s official Web site quoted her as saying during a meeting with senior aides.
The overloaded Sewol was carrying 476 people, including 325 high-school students, when it sank off the southeast coast on April 16 last year. Only 75 students survived.
Ahead of next week’s first anniversary of the tragedy, hundreds of parents of the dead students — some with their heads shaved and clad in white mourning robes — marched 35km to Seoul from their hometown, Ansan, over the weekend.
They were joined by hundreds more supporters for a rally in the capital on Sunday that called on the government to raise the sunken vessel and to ensure a fully independent inquiry into the disaster.
The tragedy sparked nationwide grief and outrage as it became clear that regulatory failings, official incompetence and the ship’s illegal redesign were the main causes.
The official response to the disaster was widely criticized for being slow, uncoordinated and unfocused. The South Korean parliament passed a bill in November last year initiating an independent investigation, but relatives have accused the government of seeking to influence the probe by appointing officials to key posts in the inquiry.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
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