By: Matthew Choi
On Apr. 16, MV Sewol capsized after taking a routine trip to Jeju. Among the 450 plus passengers, only 174 survived with the remaining passengers either dead or missing.
The passengers mainly consisted of students and teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, approximately 20km from GSIS. This accident has been one of the worst maritime accidents to happen in South Korea.
Currently there are multiple theories as to why the ferry sunk, ranging from a sudden turn, overloaded cargo, and reef collision.. However, the public won’t know how it sank until the whole ship is salvaged. Now, it is my personal belief, that how the ship sank was not the key problem, it was the action of the crew which sealed the death for so many passengers.
The thing that horrified me the most in this whole accident was the actions of the captain of the ship, Lee Jun-Seok. Now, he may have not directly caused the accident, but he did indirectly cause it by placing an inexperienced third mate in command of the ship. I believe the captain knew the waters were hard for even the best of the captains to navigate.
As the ship was capsizing and taking in water, he ordered the passengers to stay inside the ship and not to go overboard, even though almost everyone was wearing a life jacket. Now, I’m no maritime expert, but it make sense to get as many people to to the top of the deck before the ship flipped around. I wonder why would Captain Lee tell the passengers to stay on a ship when it was clearly taking on water. Did he think he could stop this disaster? His excuse of hypothermia holds little ground, as it takes approximately two hours for hypothermia to set in.
Lastly, the Captain Lee was one of the first to get out of the ship. This action has placed him in the eyes of most Koreas as one of the most inhumane people, leaving 450 passengers alone, just to save his own life.
As South Korea is a country based on maritime, this is a hard ‘pill for us to swallow’. Even after both the U.S Navy and the Japan Coast Guard’s offer of help, we turned it down and I felt that was just an answer to pride. It was my personal belief, the Korean Navy should have approved the help, as the official rescue operation was poorly conducted.
Although we often look at the negative side of the incident, there were many noble souls that tried to save fellow passengers, all at the cost of their lives. Many passengers texted and Kakao talked their parents and family members. Many people around the country showed their condolences for the lost souls. The captain and other crew member faces state prosecution and currently the South Korean Prime Minister has resigned.
GSIS was affected as several students had friends over at that particular school and on Friday May 2, GSIS will be holding a memorial service for the Sewol passengers. This memorial will include candle lighting, prayers, Scripture reading, and counseling for students.