TIME South Korea

South Korea Disbands Coast Guard in Wake of Ferry Disaster

The coast guard has been widely criticized for their failure to rescue hundreds of students from the sinking ferry last April

South Korean lawmakers have agreed to disband the country’s coast guard in the wake of a ferry disaster that killed nearly 300 people.

The coast guard’s duties will now be taken up by the National Police Agency and a soon-to-be-established safety agency, the Associated Press reports.

In April, the Sewol ferry carrying 476 passengers, most of whom were students, capsized and sank while in route. 295 bodies have been found; some are still missing at sea.

The coast guard’s failure to rescue the hundreds of passengers who eventually perished on the sinking ferry was criticized by many in the South Korean government, including President Park Geun-hye.Prosecutors have also sought the death penalty for the captain of the ferry and life sentences for members of the crew. According to the AP, verdicts will come down next week.


TIME South Korea

Son of Sunken Ferry’s Owning Family Placed on Wanted List

Kim Hong-ji—Reuters A flag depicting the company logo of Chonghaejin Marine Co flutters on its ferry Ohamana at Incheon Port Passenger Terminal in Incheon April 22, 2014.

Yoo Dae-kyun is being urgently sought after by South Korean authorities amid fears that he may escape overseas

Yoo Dae-kyun, the scion of the South Korean family suspected of being the de facto owner of the sunken Sewol ferry, was placed on a most wanted list on Wednesday, as it was feared that he could flee the country, possibly by sea.

Prosecutors believe that answers to the sinking of the Sewol could lie within the family running Chonghaejin Marine, the company that operated the ferry, Yonhap News Agency reports.

The April 16 disaster left more than 300 people dead or missing,

Investigators are also looking into people who allegedly have helped Yoo — first son of millionaire businessman, ex-convict and religious figure Yoo Byeong-eun — to evade a prosecution summons until now.


TIME South Korea

Train Crash in South Korea Injures 200

About 1,000 people were evacuated after an incoming train crashed into one that was already at a subway station in Seoul. The accident comes with the country still reeling from a ferry disaster left hundreds dead or missing

A subway crash in the South Korean capital injured about 200 commuters on Friday afternoon. No one was killed in the crash, though the accident deepens wounds left by an April ferry accident that left hundreds dead or missing.

An incoming train crashed into one that was already at a subway station in Seoul, Reuters reports. The accident was reportedly the result of a mechanical failure and missed signals; officials said at a news conference Friday that the driver of the incoming train tried to apply the emergency break after noticing a stop signal, but the train did not stop fast enough.

Friday’s passengers were reportedly told by train operators to stay in place, though most ignored the order and pried open doors to escape. Most of the passengers injured Friday suffered from minor injuries.


TIME Heroes

As Hope for Ferry Survivors Fades, Stories of Heroism Emerge

Tales of young crew members helping passengers escape the doomed Sewol ferry are emerging in the aftermath of its sinking off South Korea. At the same time, the official death toll from the disaster continues to climb and funerals are held for those victims whose bodies have already been recovered.

Praise has poured in for three crew members — Kim Ki-woong,Jeong Hyun-seon and Park Jee-young — who sacrificed their lives trying to help passengers to safety while the vessel ferry sank on April 17.

Park Ji-young, 22, a part-time ferry employee, reportedly helped passengers escape and tended to the injured. Survivors say she refused to abandon ship while there were passengers yet to be rescued.

Crew member Kim Ki-woong, 28, and his fiancée, Jeong Hyun-seon, 27, were said to be yelling to passengers to get out as the ship was sinking. “Then, the couple went back to the cabins to save other passengers. And they never came back,” one survivor told The Korea Times.

Over 31,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the three to be buried at the national cemetery and their families provided compensation for their deaths.

TIME East Asia

South Korean Ferry Investigation Broadens as Death Toll Tops 150

More than 100 people remain missing after the Sewol sank off South Korea last week, prompting the arrest of at least seven crew members


Updated: April 22, 2014, 6:45 p.m. E.T.

A series of funerals were held on Tuesday morning for victims of the ill-fated ferry that sank off South Korea’s coast six days earlier, as the death toll surpassed 150.

The number of deaths from the Sewol has rapidly increased since divers found additional paths to enter the submerged vessel and took advantage of the neap tide, with dozens of bodies recovered on Tuesday and 28 the day before. The majority of the 376 passengers on board were high school students going on a field trip to the resort island of Jeju. Over a hundred passengers remain missing.

“The conditions are so bad, my heart aches,” rescue diver Bard Yoon told CNN. “We’re going in thinking there may be survivors. When we have to come back with nothing, we can’t even face the families.”

The incident is the worst maritime disaster in the country since 1993 and has stirred outrage among relatives, who have lashed out against the government for not managing to rescue more than 174 people.

South Korean authorities broadened their investigation on Monday as they arrested four additional crew members and barred the family who owns the ferry’s operating company from leaving the country.

“The measure is to question them and hold them responsible for the poor management of the vessel,” a prosecution official told the nation’s Yonhap News Agency.

An extra deck was added to the 20-year-old ferry after the company acquired it in 2012, raising questions about how well balanced the modifications made it.

The ferry’s captain and two crew members have already been charged with negligence of duty and violating maritime law after abandoning the ship without efficiently helping passengers, an act labeled “unforgivable” and “murderous” by President Park Geun-hye on Monday.

According to the Korea Herald, the captain is likely to face a life sentence in prison. On Monday a chief engineer on board attempted suicide but is reportedly in stable condition and will soon be summoned for further questioning.

Not all crew members are accused of wrongdoing, though. Some reportedly gave their life jackets to passengers, and one woman refused to leave before helping students off the ship. She was later found dead, becoming one of at least seven crew members who lost their lives or are still missing.

TIME South Korea

South Korean President Calls Ferry Crew ‘Murderous’

A relative weeps at an area where family members of victims of the South Korean ferry 'Sewol' are gathered, at Jindo harbour on April 21, 2014.
Nicolas Asfouri—AFP/Getty Images A relative weeps at an area where family members of victims of the South Korean ferry 'Sewol' are gathered, at Jindo harbour on April 21, 2014.

President Park Geun-hye blasts the Sewol's captain and crew for "deserting" trapped passengers as the ferry went down, calling their actions "unforgivable" and "murderous." At least 64 people are confirmed dead and 240 remain missing

South Korea wants answers. Five days after a ferry sank off the country’s southern coast, the nation is waiting for information about the fate of those on board, and the cause of the disaster. A transcript of the ship’s communication with the shore, released Sunday, provides a partial glimpse into what transpired after the Sewol took a sharp turn, listed, then sank last Wednesday morning. Though much is still unclear, the exchange suggests a chaotic scene as crew members weighed whether or not to evacuate the ship.

The 6,825-ton ferry set off April 15 from the port city of Incheon, near Seoul, making its twice-weekly overnight journey to the resort island of Jeju. The Japan-made vessel was carrying 476 people, including 350 high school students on a class trip. Just before 8:55 a.m. on April 16, the ship sent a distress signal. “Our ship is in danger,” a crew member said. Two hours later, it was nearly submerged. One hundred and seventy four people survived. As of Monday evening, local time, 64 are confirmed dead and 240 remain missing.

At some point after the ship began to list, survivors say, passengers were told to stay below deck. Captain Lee Jun-seok told South Korean media he worried that the cold water and swift currents made evacuating the ferry too risky. A crew member told controllers that people were unable to move and that the boat’s internal broadcast system was down. But they also repeatedly asked traffic controllers on shore if passengers who abandoned ship would be rescued immediately.

“The coast guard will arrive in 15 minutes; please tell your passengers to wear life jackets,” emergency dispatchers told the ferry about 30 minutes after the initial call.

“We have lost our ability to broadcast our messages,” the ship responded.

“Even if you can’t use your speaker, do your best to go out and ensure that your passengers wear life jackets or thick clothes,” dispatchers said.

“If our passengers evacuate, will they be immediately rescued?” the ship asked.

“Let them float even with life rings. Hurry!” urged the dispatcher, adding that “the captain should make a final decision.”

Lee survived, as did most of his crew. Lee faces jail time for abandoning ship; several crew members have also been detained.

On Monday, President Park Geun-hye lashed out at the ferry’s crew, calling their actions “unforgivable” and “murderous.” They “told the passengers to stay put but they themselves became the first to escape, after deserting the passengers,” she said at a Cabinet meeting. “Legally and ethically, this is an unimaginable act.” Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, echoed the sentiment, saying the transcripts revealed “negligence” on the part of the coast guard and Sewol’s crew.

Some family members, meanwhile, put the blame on Park’s government, accusing officials of giving parents inaccurate information and botching the search-and-rescue effort. Last week angry relatives threw water bottles at the Prime Minister and shouted at Park. On Sunday about 100 people vowed to march from South Korea’s southern coast, where they have gathered to wait for news, to the President’s official residence in Seoul, reports the Associated Press. They were eventually stopped by police officers. As they pushed against the barricade, some yelled “The government is the real killer!”

In the cold water off the country’s southern coast, divers spent the weekend and Monday trying to get inside the vessel. Bodies pulled from the water were ferried to Jindo island, where family members huddled near at the shoreline, eyes fixed to the sea. They are desperate to know what happened. But five days in, with no sign of survivors, they are bracing for bad news.

TIME South Korea

Rescuers Battle Elements in Search for Ferry Missing

With over 270 people still missing, rescuers contend with bad weather and strong tides to find anyone still alive inside the sunken ship

A massive search effort is under way to locate over 270 people still missing in the sunken ferry in South Korea’s Yellow Sea. Now, bad weather and strong currents are slowing down the rescue effort.

TIME South Korea

Authorities Arrest Captain of Capsized Ferry

Lee Joong-seok
Yonhap/AP Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, leaves a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, April 19, 2014.

The captain of the ferry that capsized off the coast of South Korea has been charged by prosecutors and taken into custody by police

Updated at 3:12 p.m. ET

Officials in South Korea have arrested and formally charged the captain of the ferry that capsized this week with over 300 students on board.

The captain, Lee Joon Seok, has been charged with five crimes related to his abandonment of the vessel, negligence, causing bodily injury, not seeking rescue from other ships, and violation of “seamen’s law,” CNN reports. If convicted he faces up to life in prison.

Prosecutors and local police have also requested an arrest warrant for three crewmembers in a local court, AFP reports. “The joint investigation team of police and prosecutors asked for warrants to arrest three crew, including the captain,” a coast guard official told AFP.

The captain and most of the crew reportedly escaped the ferry that capsized Wednesday off the coast of South Korea, an accident that authorities think may have been the result of a shift in cargo after a sharp turn. Though the captain and crew escaped, hundreds remained trapped on board the sinking vessel, including students from the Danwon High School, outside of Seoul. On Friday, the death toll from the ferry disaster rose to 28 and hundreds are believed to still be in the ship. About 270 are still missing, CNN reports.

Hopes are waning among those waiting to hear of more rescues, and on Friday the vice-principal of the Danwon School, one of the 179 people rescued from the ferry, was found hanging from a tree in an apparent suicide.

Captain Lee Joon Seok apologized on Thursday saying, “I feel really sorry for the passengers, victims and families. … I feel ashamed.”



Bad Weather Slows Search for South Korea Ferry Survivors

APTOPIX South Korea Ship Sinking
Ahn Young-joon—AP A relative of a passenger aboard a sunken ferry weeps at a port in Jindo, South Korea, April 17, 2014.

About 271 people are still missing as the military battles wind and waves to find survivors of the capsized South Korean ferry

Murky waters and strong currents hampered the search on Thursday for survivors of the South Korean ferry that capsized. Though 179 people have been rescued since Wednesday’s disaster, emergency services say 25 people have been confirmed dead and 271 people are still missing.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited the wreckage site and emphasized the need for speed in the search, saying every second was important, according to the BBC. The ferry was filled mainly with high school students on their way to Jeju island.

But more than 500 military divers have had to struggle against high winds and tumultuous waves as they try to reach the vessel. They can’t access any of the cabins, said Kim Soo-hyun, chief of the West Regional Headquarters of South Korea’s coast guard. The coast guard has been using floodlights and flares to continue to search the ship. Altogether, the military had deployed 171 vessels and 29 aircraft in the search.

“We carried out underwater searches five times from midnight until early in the morning, but strong currents and the murky water pose tremendous obstacles,” Kang Byung-kyu, Minister for Security and Public Administration, told the BBC.

Investigators still have not determined what caused the ship to tip over. “I am really sorry and deeply ashamed. I don’t know what to say,” said the captain of the ship, Lee Joon-seok. He was reportedly one of the first people to escape the capsizing ship.

The U.S. Navy has sent an assault ship to aid in the search.


TIME South Korea

Captain of Ferry That Capsized Off South Korea ‘Really Sorry’

Coast guard members search for passengers near a South Korean ferry that capsized on its way to Jeju island from Incheon on April 16, 2014.
Dong-A Ilbo—AFP/Getty Images Coast guard members search for passengers near a South Korean ferry that capsized on its way to Jeju island from Incheon on April 16, 2014.

Lee Joon-seok apologizes to survivors and relatives after the Sewol capsized off South Korea Wednesday, leaving at least 14 dead and more than 280 unaccounted for. Divers are still searching for survivors that may be trapped inside the vessel

The captain of a ferry that capsized Wednesday off the southern South Korean coast apologized Thursday for his role in the incident that left at least 14 dead and 282 missing.

“I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” Captain Lee Joon-seok said during a coast guard investigative interview that appeared on South Korean television Thursday, ABC News reports. “I don’t know what to say.”

Lee, who was reportedly one of the first people to evacuate the sinking ferry, faces possible criminal charges over the incident.

Fourteen people have been found dead while another 179 have been rescued from the vessel. Another 282 passengers — many of them students on a high school trip — are still missing, Reuters reports.

Divers are still searching for survivors as some hope that still-missing passengers may be alive in air-filled pockets inside the vessel.

[ABC News]

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