TIME South Korea

Victims of South Korea’s Sewol Ferry Disaster Remembered One Year On

A relative of a victim of the Sewol ferry disaster holds a flower as he stands on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry, off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo
Ed Jones—Reuters A relative of a victim of the Sewol ferry disaster holds a flower as he stands on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry, off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo April 15, 2015

Nine bodies remain unaccounted for, and the disaster’s anniversary is again heating up as a political issue

Thursday marks one year since the Sewol ferry sank off the southwest coast of South Korea. But for Lee Keum-hui, it feels like only a day or two since she lost her daughter Eun-hwa, who was one of 476 passengers setting out from Incheon for Jeju, a resort island.

“Some people say it’s time to move on, but how can we do that when our daughter’s body is still out there somewhere?” said Lee, 46, sweeping at the placid waters off Paengmok Harbor, the nearest point on land to the tragedy.

Eun-hwa is one of nine passengers who were never recovered. Lee and her husband still make the nearly five-hour trip from Ansan, a southern suburb of the capital, Seoul, down to Paengmok two or three times a week. There, they sit and hope that somehow their daughter’s remains will be returned to them.

South Korea was overwhelmed with grief when the Sewol sank. People struggled to fathom how a routine ferry ride could lead to 304 deaths, many of them students on a high school field trip. As the ordeal dragged on, the initial sadness segued into fury as the public accused the government of an inept rescue effort.

South Korea engineered a quick rise from poverty after the 1950–53 Korean War and is today one of the world’s wealthier, and more technologically advanced, countries. The shock of the Sewol sinking was compounded by disbelief over how, in a country that had come so far, a simple ferry ride could go so terribly wrong.

In ramshackle Paengmok Harbor, the farthest point on mainland South Korea one can get from the shine of the capital, normal life has mostly returned, with the rescue mission having been called off last autumn. Before last year it was little known beyond the locals who rely on it as a port for fishing boats and traveling to nearby islets.

However, with the sunken hulk still off the coast and nine bodies unaccounted for, Paengmok remains the site of grieving by families and their supporters.

The long, narrow pier is strewn with tokens of the tragedy. Banners with messages of support hang from the railings, imploring, “We won’t forget” and “Kids, come back. It must be so cold out there.” There are flags with the names of the nine passengers who were never recovered. One of them, frayed by the sharp wind that constantly blows in off the water, carries the name Cho Eun-hwa, Lee’s 16-year-old daughter.

The disaster’s anniversary is again heating up as a political issue. Bereaved families have staged large protests in Seoul, calling for the government to carry out a thorough investigation.

In the emotional aftermath of the sinking, the nation’s Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned, in what he said was a gesture of responsibility amid a culture of neglecting safety measures. In addition, President Park Geun-hye’s approval ratings plummeted from about 60% to less than 40% in the wake of the tragedy.

Cheonghaejin Marine, the company that operated the Sewol, was also pilloried for failing to follow basic safety protocol and having, a couple of years before, carried out a dangerous refurbishment of the ship that allowed it to carry more passengers but also made it more vulnerable to tipping over.

The firm’s CEO was sentenced to 10 years in prison last November for having violated maritime safety laws. The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, received 36 years for professional negligence causing death, while the ship’s engineer was sentenced to 30 and other crew members between five and 20 years.

At the time of the ruling, some bereaved families argued that the captain was getting off too easy and should have been sentenced to death. Lee was reportedly not at the helm at the time the Sewol began listing and, along with other crew members, fled the ship while most passengers languished aboard.

Kang Min-kyu, the vice principal of Danwon High School, where many of the young victims studied, committed suicide two days after the disaster. The 52-year-old was among the 172 passengers rescued but couldn’t live with the fact that so many of his young charges were less fortunate.

Late last year, South Korea’s National Assembly passed a law that mandated the formation of a special committee to look into the sinking. However, the investigation hasn’t gotten off the ground because of disagreements between the families and government over the body’s composure and the limits of its authority.

In addition to her hopes for an official probe, Lee says she won’t be able to move on from losing Eun-hwa until her daughter’s remains have been recovered. “We’ve been here for the past year, and our goal is still the same: to find our beloved child,” Lee said.

In Korea’s Confucian culture, great importance is placed on holding a ceremony to mark the end of a person’s life. And experts say moving on is especially difficult for parents who could only watch on TV as their children perished.

“The parents’ grief has been exacerbated by their inability to have intervened, to have assumed the role of their child’s protector,” said Ansuk Jeong, a Ph.D. in community psychology and research professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Kwon Oh-bok, a 61-year-old who lost his brother, nephew and sister-in-law, has spent the past year living in a small housing unit at Paengmok provided by the local government.

When the Sewol sank, Kwon’s brother’s family of four was on their way to start a new life in Jeju, having purchased a tangerine farm. Kwon’s 6-year-old niece was the family’s only survivor and now lives with an aunt.

Kwon says he’s still waiting for some kind of closure and would like the government to raise the prone hull from the seabed, a process that could take more than a year, and cost $110 million, according to a study commissioned by South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

“Once they raise the ferry I’ll be ready to leave, but not until then,” Kwon said.

Lee wears Eun-hwa’s student ID card around her neck, with a headshot of the young girl with a slight smile and dark, horn-rimmed glasses. Lee says her expectations have dropped precipitously since she first came to Paengmok. Having arrived last April hoping Eun-hwa would be rescued alive, this faded into the simple desire to see her only daughter’s face one last time.

Now, facing the reality of Eun-hwa having spent one year in the briny depths, Lee says, “I just want to hug her bones.”

TIME China

Why This Chinese Startup Just Bought a Company Americans Love to Ridicule

Segway Ninebot China Copycat
Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images A woman commutes on a Segway electric, self-balancing scooter in Beijing, China, on June 9, 2009.

Ninebot's acquisition of Segway is signaling the end of "copycat China"

Two companies have sealed a deal that’s raising eyebrows: Segway, the struggling American maker of disgraced self-balancing scooters, has been bought by Ninebot, the Chinese rival that Segway recently accused of copying its signature two-wheelers.

Ninebot announced the curious acquisition for an undisclosed sum on Wednesday, which followed a combined $80 million investment from mega-rich Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi, investment firm Sequoia Capital and other backers. The two electric scooter makers will still operate as separate brands with their own products, but will unite under a “strategic alliance” to develop smarter, greener short-distance transportation vehicles.

The deal comes as a bit of a surprise given the companies’ history. Just seven months ago, Segway filed a trade complaint accusing Ninebot and other Chinese companies of violating its patents. Their products indeed resemble one another, but Ninebot has insisted it “independently owns its intellectual property.”

By itself, Segway is an interesting choice for an acquisition. The New Hampshire-based company’s self-proclaimed “future of transportation” didn’t quite catch on in America, perhaps aside from sometimes being the ride of choice among mall cops. (TIME once named Segway one of the 50 Worst Inventions.) Faced with limited success, Segway ended up being sold off twice to investors, once in 2009 and then again in 2013. The first, British investor Jimi Heselden, died in an ironic, tragic Segway crash in 2010, and the second, Summit Strategic Investments, intended to “refocus” Segway over several years, but that project was never completed.

Still, the Ninebot-Segway deal makes a lot of sense as it relates to China. Ninebot and its backers want to put an end to not only the copyright feud with Segway, but also to a larger, nationwide controversy that Segway called China’s “widespread pattern of infringement”—or what’s also been labeled “copycat China.”

“Today it’s not just copycat China,” Sequoia Capital partner Neil Shen said during Ninebot’s announcement in Beijing. “China will expand, through its own innovations and through acquisitions.”

Though the copycat reputation has long been a source of amusement, profit and convenience for China and its Western observers (the raging counterfeit markets, the full-scale copies of European cities, the fake Western hotels shamelessly named “Haiyatt”), the emphasis on imitation over innovation has contributed to a slow-down in China’s economic growth, according to China Market Research Group. China’s annual GDP growth rate continued to be sluggish at 7.7% in 2013, one of the lowest figures the country has seen in the past 20 years, according to the World Bank:

Some have attributed China’s lack of innovation to how private businesses proliferated only after being granted permission to operate during China’s economic reform in the 1980s. Others have dug deeper to argue the culture has historically prioritized hard knowledge at the expense of fostering creativity.

The Ninebot acquisition appears to be an active step towards unwinding China’s copycat problem by promoting innovation. After all, Ninebot’s most recognizable backer, Xiaomi, appears to be financing the journey. Xiaomi is an innovation king in its own right, having found massive success by filling a void in the market: high-quality, low-end smartphones. It’s also branched out into air purifiers and power strips, both of which are smartly angled towards the nation’s pollution problem.

But will Ninebot and Segway find a niche in China? It’s possible. And perhaps they already have. Chinese cops can sometimes be seen riding Segways and other electric scooters, and consumers there appear to have taken to the vehicles more than Americans have. In fact, former high-ranking leader Bo Xilai reportedly gifted his son a Segway, and tourists can often be seen renting Segways to zoom around cities from one destination to the next.

The Ninebot acquisition has the potential to give the vehicles an innovation jolt to boost affordability, smart technology and functionality, as the greater Chinese economy attempts similarly to ramp up businesses’ creativity. With Ninebot and Segway working together, perhaps the electric scooter can finally find a substantial customer base—even if it’ll never become cool.

Read next: This Could Be the Apple’s Secret Apple Watch Strategy

MONEY Airlines

This Airline Just Made Your Butt Happy

Southwest Airlines—Wieck Soon, Southwest passengers will enjoy wider seats on the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Airline travelers are used to the economy section getting more and more cramped. So Southwest Airlines' move to make seats slightly wider is a blessing.

This week, Southwest Airlines announced that its new 737 airplanes will boast seats with a rare commodity: a little extra room for your butt. The bottom seat cushions will be 17.8 inches across, whereas the typical seat width on 737s is 17 to 17.3 inches.

“The new aircraft seats are the widest economy seats available in the single-aisle 737 market, and offer a unique design that gives our customers what they asked for: more space,” Bob Jordan, Southwest’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in a press release announcing the new seats.

Passengers won’t get to enjoy the extra seat width until mid-2016 at the earliest. That’s when Southwest’s forthcoming 737-800s will first hit the runway and begin accepting passengers.

Will the new seats transform the flying experience of passengers? Honestly, probably not. An extra half-inch or so of space is nice, but for most travelers it won’t feel like a true game changer. Besides, the seats in some other airlines’ economy sections are already wider than Southwest’s new seats. According to SeatGuru, carriers that commonly use 737s, such as Alaska Airlines and Southwest, currently have seat widths of 17 to 17.1 inches. But on JetBlue, which prefers different aircraft (Airbus, Embraer E-190), the seat widths range from 17.8 to 18.25 inches.

Meanwhile, Airbus has argued that airline seats should be at least 18 inches wide, pointing to studies that show sleep quality is 53% better on 18-inch seats compared with 17-inchers. Airbus also pointed out that human beings today tend to simply be larger and heavier than prior generations, and that other industries are more accommodating. The typical modern American movie theater seat, for instance, is 22 inches wide, one inch more than the average of a decade ago.

Nonetheless, Southwest’s move is a welcome change, if for no other reason than that it goes against the trend of airlines cramming in more and more seats and scaling back passengers’ personal space in economy sections, with the hopes of boosting profits—which are already at record highs thanks to high airfares and low fuel prices. Southwest remains an anomaly in the industry for maintaining its free checked baggage policy. Slightly wider seats could prove to be another way the airline can differentiate itself from the pack in a passenger-friendly way.

Read next: These Are the Airlines With the Most Passenger Complaints

TIME Aviation

These Tiny Seats Could Mean Air Travel Is About to Get Much Worse

Airlines are shrinking seat widths to squeeze in more passengers

The controversial Knee Defender blocks a passenger in front of you from reclining, but what do you do when your shoulders are getting squeezed on an airplane?

That’s the big question as airplane manufacturers continue to shrink seats to let airlines stuff more passengers into economy sections. The latest maker to apply this cost-cutting measure is Airbus, which unveiled a new 11 seat-per-row reconfiguration for its A380 superjumbo jet this week in Hamburg, Germany.

The Airbus A380 currently seats 10 passengers per row in economy (3-4-3), but the new configuration bumps the middle section up by one (3-5-3):

The double-decker’s new seats, which will arrive in 2017, are technically still the same width as before — 18 in. (46 cm.) — thanks to Airbus freeing up space by slightly modifying the seats’ layout, Quartz reports. But there’s no doubt the seats will look and feel a bit tighter, if only because the plane’s capacity will be raised to 544, up from 525. Even if you have relatively narrow shoulders — the average human shoulder width is about 16 in. (41 cm.) — you can’t always count on your neighbors to be similarly sized.

Here’s what you might be feeling aboard your next flight with the A380’s main users, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Qantas:

Read more: This Airline Just Made Your Butt Happy

The tight A380 seats are part of an industry trend that’s crept into long-haul planes from short-haul planes, where passengers tend to be more willing to endure a few hours of discomfort to save money. Other long-haul jets to shrink seats include the Boeing 777 — commonly flown by United and American Airlines — whose new models are being shipped with 17 in. seat widths.

Read next: 3 Reasons You Should Be Planning a Trip to Europe Right Now

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Transportation

Washington State Might Build a Bridge Out of Aircraft Carriers

The project may get $90,000 in funding

Washington state may spend $90,000 on a bridge made of retired Navy aircraft carriers.

The bridge, which would cross the Sinclair Inlet is under “active consideration,” according to Popular Mechanics, even though there are currently no carriers immediately available. The funding would go toward understanding the feasibility of such a project. Those who support the bridge believe it could become a future tourist destination for the area and could also reduce traffic.

The bridge would likely need two to three aircraft carriers. The plausibility and load capacity has been questioned by some critics, though floating bridges is not a new architectural concept.

The idea comes from Washington State Representative Jesse Young. “I know that people from around the world would come to drive across the deck of an aircraft carrier bridge, number one,” Young told KUOW. “Number two, it’s the right thing to do from my standpoint because this is giving a testimony and a legacy memorial to our greatest generation.”

TIME apps

Uber Launches Rickshaw Service in India

Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) is demonstrated for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone in New York, U.S., on, Aug. 6, 2014
Bloomberg/Getty Images Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) is demonstrated for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone in New York, U.S., on, Aug. 6, 2014

You'll have to pay in cash

Uber has unveiled a new ride-sharing service in the Indian capital: auto rickshaws.

The three-wheeled vehicles are popular in the country, so Uber announced Thursday that they would be available, for cash only, in the Indian capital:

Users can hail the autos via the Uber app and then pay with cash at the end of the ride.

“Autos are an iconic and ubiquitous part of the Delhi landscape and we are excited to have them as another option on the Uber platform,” the company posted on its website.

Uber has had trouble in India in the past, most notably for the alleged rape of a female passenger by her driver. The app has since installed a panic button.

TIME France

40% of Flights in France Canceled Amid Strike

Travellers check a flight information board with various of them listed as 'cancelled' due to a strike of air traffic controllers at the Charles de Gaulle internation airport's terminal 2, in Roissy, near Paris, April 8, 2015.
Ian Langsdon—EPA Travellers check a flight information board with various of them listed as 'cancelled' due to a strike of air traffic controllers at the Charles de Gaulle internation airport's terminal 2, in Roissy, near Paris, April 8, 2015.

Air traffic controllers began a two-day strike Wednesday

Roughly 40 percent of flights in France have been canceled as the country’s air traffic controllers began a two-day strike Wednesday.

The SNCTA union, which is France’s largest, is clashing with airlines over raising the retirement age and working conditions, the AP reports.

Air France, the country’s biggest airline, said long flights would not be affected and that 60 percent of its medium-haul flights in and out of Charles de Gaulle airport would continue. However, two out of three flights to and from France’s Orly airport, the country’s second largest, have been canceled.

“It’s grossly unfair that thousands of European travelers will once again have their travel plans disrupted by the selfish actions of a tiny number of French ATC workers,” Ryanair said in a statement. The airline has so far canceled more than 250 flights.


TIME Aviation

Why No One Agrees Whether Cockpit Doors Are Safer Locked or Open

Germanwings Cockpit Door Lock Airbus
Leonhard Foeger—Reuters A person moves the switch of the cockpit door locking system inside a flight simulator of an Airbus A320 in Vienna on March 26, 2015.

History shows that a locked door isn't always safer

Prosecutors claiming the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 was deliberate revealed on Thursday a chilling piece of evidence.

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, 27, whom investigators believe locked the captain out of the cockpit before putting the plane into a fatal descent, had researched the doors’ security on his iPad before the March 24 crash, investigators said. The discovery has heightened concerns about whether locked cockpit doors — fortified and enforced in the wake of 9/11 — are more dangerous than they are safe.

The debate, however, is nothing new. For decades, aviation officials have struggled with the paradox of a cockpit that is both secure, in the event of a threat from outside, and accessible, in the event of a threat from within. As a result, many planes — including the Germanwings jet — now have emergency codes to enter the cockpit, which are known only by the flight crew, according to an Airbus manual. The code unlocks the cockpit door within 30 seconds unless someone inside hits the “lock” toggle, in which case there is no way to gain entrance. (Investigators have not said whether the emergency codes were used on the Germanwings plane, though the flight data recorder presumably will provide this information.)

While some believe the solution to better cockpit security is obvious — the “rule of two,” which requires two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times — the problem is in fact much more complex. History shows that there is no perfect level of accessibility when it comes to airplanes: sometimes it’s important to keep people out; sometimes it’s important to get inside. Here’s a look at how locked or open cockpit doors have been both life-saving and life-threatening throughout history:

The case for open cockpit doors:

Helios Airways Flight 522 (Aug. 14, 2005)

The Boeing 737 crashed in the mountains near Athens, killing all 121 on board, after the co-pilots became incapacitated after they mistook an in-flight depressurization — which deprives the plane of oxygen — for an air-conditioning malfunction. Moments before the plane exhausted its fuel, a flight attendant had managed to enter the locked cockpit using an emergency code and attempted unsuccessfully to control the plane. The Guardian reported in 2006 that on this flight, only the senior steward had been permitted to know the code, raising questions of whether open doors — or less protected doors — would have allowed the flight attendant to reach the cockpit sooner. (It is not known how the flight attendant obtained the code.)

Mozambique Airlines Flight 470 (Nov. 29, 2013)

The Embraer 190 crashed in Namibia en route to Angola after descending rapidly from an altitude of 38,000 ft., killing all 33 passengers and crew. Investigators believe the captain had a “clear intention” to crash the jet. “[Moments before the crash] you can hear low and high-intensity alarm signals and repeated beating against the door with demands to come into the cockpit,” a Mozambican Civil Aviation Institute official said after the jet’s cockpit voice recorder was retrieved — but the person banging on the cockpit door could not get inside.

Air New Zealand Flight 176 (May 21, 2014)

Midflight, the captain of a Boeing 777 carrying 303 people locked the first officer out of the cockpit after they had an argument over a take-off delay, the New Zealand Herald reported. The captain did not immediately respond to requests from the crew to open the door, alarming the first officer and cabin crew. After two minutes, the first officer used “an alternative method” to access the cockpit, the airline said, though it did not specify what method for security reasons. After the incident, both pilots were ordered to receive counseling and training.

The case for locked cockpit doors:

Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 (Dec. 7, 1987)

This routine flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco crashed after a newly terminated employee, who had brought a gun on board the jet, shot five people. The plane entered a nosedive, resulting in the deaths of all 43 people aboard, investigators said. Analysis of the cockpit voice recorder suggests a flight attendant had opened the cockpit door to warn the pilot that a gunshot had been fired in the cabin, after which the suspect shot the woman and both pilots and seized controls. Though fortified cockpit security may have prevented the crash, investigators were concerned primarily with how exactly the employee managed to board the plane with a gun. They attributed the incident to a now-defunct policy that had allowed airline employees to bypass normal security if they displayed credentials, which the suspect had not surrendered upon termination.

JetBlue Flight 191 (March 27, 2012)

The 100-some passengers on the New York to Las Vegas flight had a scare when the captain began to behave erratically, telling the first officer things like “we’re not going to Vegas,” according to an FBI statement. When the captain left the cockpit to go to the lavatory, the first officer asked a flight attendant to bring an off-duty captain aboard the plane into the cockpit. The two pilots locked the door, ordering passengers on the intercom to restrain the on-duty captain as he attempted to enter the cockpit with his emergency access code. All on board were unharmed.

United Airlines Flight 1074 (March 17, 2015)

A flight headed from D.C. to Denver returned to the airport 20 minutes into the flight after a passenger became violent and ran toward the cockpit, the airline said. The man was immediately restrained by other passengers while the pilot safely landed the Boeing 737, carrying 33 passengers and six crew. During the process, the pilot reassured the controllers that the cockpit was locked, according to recordings of the radio communications from the flight.

TIME Transportation

This Glow-in-the-Dark Spray Could Make Cycling at Night Way Safer

A new safety initiative being tested in the U.K.

Car giant Volvo is turning in a slightly different direction for its next project: cycling safety.

Last week, the automaker and its partners unveiled a reflective spray called LifePaint, which cyclists can spray on their clothes and bicycles to boost safety at night. The spray, which is reflective for up to 10 days, is invisible in daylight but becomes bright white at night when a car shines its lights on a treated surface.

LifePaint, created in partnership with design firm Grey London and Swedish startup Albedo100, is in trials at six cycle shops in London and Kent. If it proves popular with cyclists, Grey London said in a statement, the project will expand domestically and beyond the U.K.

TIME Transportation

4-Year-Old Girl Boards Bus Alone in Late-Night Search for Slushie

The girl was unharmed and reunited with her parents

A 4-year-old girl boarded a Philadelphia bus alone in the early hours of Friday, transportation officials said Sunday, and told passengers she was looking for a slushie.

Surveillance footage showed the girl acting cheerful with her feet dangling off her seats, while confused bus riders looked her way, Reuters reports. The driver pulled over when he noticed the girl, then called his control center and awaited authorities. She was taken to a nearby hospital and reunited with her parents, who said they didn’t realize she had left via a back door.

“I will take you to buy a slushie,” Jaclyn Mager said to her daughter in a television interview. “But promise me next time you’ll wait for me, O.K.?”


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