Wednesday, April 23, 2014

South Korea: Update--Death Toll from Sinking of "Sewol" Rises to 150 Souls

According to Reuters, South Korean divers  removed 150 bodies from the "Sewol" from the ferry as of Wednesday (April 23).

COMMENT: Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, only 174 people have been rescued; the remainder are presumed to have drowned.

The foundation of this disaster will no doubt focus on the owner's failure to order all passengers and crew on deck so they could be prepared to "abandon ship" when necessary.

Most of the victims were high school children, who were told to stay where they were for their own safety.

Most of the bodies found in the last two days had broken fingers, presumably from the children frantically trying to climb the walls or floors to escape in their last moments, media said.

Prosecutors investigating the disaster raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., the company that operated the "Sewol" ferry. 

The finances of Chonghaejin and its complex share structure have come into the spotlight in recent days. Yoo was jailed for fraud for four years in the early 1990s.

It is presumed that the South Korean legal community will eventually face a class-action lawsuit that is likely to bankrupt Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd.
 
In a rare move, the disaster prompted reclusive North Korea, which routinely threatens the South with destruction, to send a message of sympathy. The two sides are still technically at war after the 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a mere truce.

"The charged crew members appear to have not carried out their duty to rescue the passengers at all," prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told a briefing. "Based on the fact that they were gathered in the bridge, engine room and so on, then left the boat, we believe negligent homicide is applicable."

According to Article 10 of the Seafarers' Act, a captain or master is required to remain aboard until all passengers have been evacuated.

Most of those who survived made it out on deck and jumped into rescue boats, but many of the children did not leave their cabins, not questioning their elders, as is customary in hierarchical Korean society. They paid for their obedience with their lives.