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Locals react to Korean ferry accident

BY LILY ABROMEIT | APRIL 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sang-Seok Yoon is frustrated with his home country’s government.

Yoon is from Seoul, South Korea, and following an accident on April 16 involving a ferry capsizing, he said he and many others are confused, sad, and disappointed by the actions taking place in the country.

“It’s a very stupid situation, and something went wrong, and I just felt like an absurd thing happened,” said Yoon, who is a lecturer in Korean at the University of Iowa. “My feeling on the government of South Korea is it doesn’t have a reliable manual to treat this kind of accident, so whenever there is something like this, everybody is kind of … absent-minded, or they don’t know what to do.”

On April 16, a ferry traveling to Jeju Island, capsized with 476 passengers on board, many of them high-school students.

Sixty-one bodies have been recovered, and 240 people are still missing.

UI sophomore Sung Weon Yun, also from Seoul, said the first news reported to the people was that most passengers were safe. But this news was inaccurate.

“I think they are doing that to make the families relieved and calmed down,” he said. “But now they are raging more because of that.”

Yoon said he thinks the anger toward the government could affect the support for the current leaders.

“There is an election soon, so politicians are … really concerned about just the people who support them,” he said. “Some politicians go to the site to console [the victim’s families], but actually they are bothering them, they are not helping them at all.”

UI junior Dohyeon Lee, who is from Boeun, South Korea, said he hopes officials do not use this time to try to gain votes.

“The government should show that they are doing their best, because this incident would be the test of crisis-management ability for this administration,” he said in an email.

Yun said most of the blame should be placed on the people controlling the ship.

“This is really a big ferry, and I think the only problem was the captain,” Yun said.

Currently, three crewmembers have been arrested, including the captain of the ship. Many say the victims did not hear a warning for evacuation and blame the deaths on the victims’ inability to react quickly to the situation.

Lee said there could be other reasons for the malfunction, such as an overload of cars and cargo or a lack of sufficient renovations.

“Normally, the lifespan of [a] vessel is about 20 years,” he said. “Lots of companies import used vessels and renovate [them] to use again. In this process, they sometimes build an extension that is not appropriate.”

The ferry in the accident, Sewol, he said, was imported from Japan.

“Before importing, it was already used for 18 years in Japan,” he said. “After importing, they renovated and built an extension so that they can carry more passengers.”

Speaking with some of his friends and family in South Korea, Lee said they are all distraught and worried.

“All of them are praying and [trying] to think positively,” he said. “Everyone wish one thing: People wish that missing people can come back like [a] miracle.”


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