Ferry Disaster: Pressure Mounts on South Korean Government

2 minute read

South Korean authorities remain under sustained pressure for their handling of the Sewol ferry disaster, even though Prime Minister Chung Hong-won apologized and resigned over the matter on Sunday.

The government has come under fierce attack for a seemingly slow rescue operation after the ferry capsized on April 16, leaving 188 dead and over 100 people still unaccounted for. Several of the ship’s safety breaches have also reflected badly on the administration, and prompted demands for an overhaul of the country’s safety inspection agencies and the government’s disaster response system.

Members from both sides of parliament have suggested that President Park should apologize too, something she is tipped to do at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday. Leading opposition politician Ahn Cheol-soo criticized the President’s decision to let her Prime Minister resign as “extremely irresponsible” and tantamount to a a“cowardly shirking” of her responsibility, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have raided vessel traffic centers that monitored the ferry during its fateful final voyage and have requested search warrants for a Coast Guard office. The Coast Guard has been criticized for asking a teenage passenger who made the first emergency call to state the ship’s longitude and latitude.

Inclement weather severely hampered search efforts over the weekend, and effectively suspended them Monday. Relatives of the missing passengers have been in private meetings with rescuers over the next phase of the recovery mission. Since divers are having difficulties reaching the parts of the vessel closest to the seabed, officials are mulling whether they should cut through the hull or use explosives, which may risk further damaging the already decomposing bodies within. The rescue team is reportedly also in the last stages of preparing for a salvage operation of the ship.

The weather at the scene is expected to gradually clear on Tuesday.

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