World
S. Korean president apologises for ferry disaster
Publish Date: Apr 29, 2014
S. Korean president apologises for ferry disaster
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye pays her respects in front of a joint memorial altar for victims of the sunken South Korean ferry "Sewol" in Ansan on April 29, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/YONHAP)
  • mail
  • img
newvision

 SEOUL - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye apologised Tuesday for her government's failure to combat systemic and regulatory "evils" blamed for the loss of about 300 lives in a ferry disaster.

Two days after her prime minister resigned over the tragedy, Park's comments are another attempt to defuse growing public anger about the April 16 sinking of the 6,825-tonne Sewol.

"I don't know how to apologise for the failure to prevent this accident, and for the insufficient first response," Park said in a statement to her cabinet that was broadcast on national television.

"I am sorry to the people and heavy-hearted that many precious lives were lost."

Park's government has been widely criticised over perceived corruption and lax safety standards that may have led to the disaster, with claims that the ferry was overloaded and that the passenger list was inaccurate and incomplete.

Echoing words used by Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won when he fell on his sword on Sunday, Park blamed systemic and regulatory failings for one of South Korea's worst ever maritime tragedies.

"I feel so regretful for having been unable to correct such long-running evils and letting an accident like this take place," she said.

Park accepted Chung's resignation but ordered him to remain in office until the recovery operation was completed.

Earlier Tuesday the president had travelled to Ansan just south of Seoul, where she paid her respects at a memorial for the schoolchildren who died in the disaster.

Of the 476 people on board the Sewol, 325 were students from the same high school in Ansan. Only 75 of them were rescued.

But in a sign of the boiling anger felt by relatives of the missing and the dead, there were shouted demands for her floral tribute to be removed from the shrine, and reports the president had been jostled.

- Divers hampered by currents -

The confirmed death toll from the accident stood Tuesday at 203, with 99 people still missing, the coastguard said.

"Our job will focus on searching the right side of the fourth floor of the boat... as we've failed to gain access to the side because the ship (sank) with the right side touching the bottom," an official from the state response team said, according to Yonhap.

Several of the ferry's cabins have still not been accessed, with divers hampered by strong currents and debris.

As the operation on the seabed crept forward, the probe into the catastrophe was gathering pace, with the head of the ferry's operator called to answer investigators' questions.

Kim Han-Sik, the CEO of Chonghaejin Marine, was summoned to the prosecutors' office in the port city of Incheon, from where the ill-fated ferry departed bound for Jeju island.

Kim, 71, issued a tearful apology for the "horrible tragedy" the day after the accident, saying he and other company officials were responsible for a "grave sin" in letting it happen.

Live footage Tuesday showed Kim -- wearing a dark hat and a mask shielding most of his face -- mobbed by TV crews and reporters as he limped into the prosecutors' office, held up by two aides.

Kim faces charges including negligence, embezzlement and tax evasion related to the family that effectively owns the company, according to media reports.

On Monday prosecutors raided the coastguard office in the southern port of Mokpo to probe allegations that it had failed to respond quickly enough to a passenger's emergency call.

All 15 of the surviving crew responsible for sailing the huge ferry remain in custody, facing charges including negligence and abandoning passengers.

The public's already dim view of the crew worsened Monday when the coastguard released a video showing the trouserless captain scrambling to safety as hundreds of his passengers remained trapped inside the ferry.

The 10-minute video -- taken by rescue officials -- shows 69-year-old Lee Joon-Seok, wearing a sweater and underpants, hastily escaping from the bridge of the tilting ship.

The footage shows the open decks nearly empty, after crew repeatedly instructed passengers to stay in their cabins until it became impossible for them to evacuate.

The delay in the crucial final stages -- when most crew members fled the ferry -- sparked outrage that many lives could have been saved if passengers had received timely instructions.

AFP

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
ICC insists Kenyatta attend
THE International Criminal Court has rejected a request by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's lawyers to have him excused from a hearing next week...
Muslim pilgrims denounce IS but doubt US-led war
As they gather in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj, some pilgrims have denounced atrocities by Islamic State group jihadists as "a virus" threatening the world....
Fears over fresh eruption halt Japan volcano search
Volcanic tremors and fears over a fresh eruption forced rescuers with gas masks to halt operations to recover bodies from a Japanese mountain on Tuesday, 72 hours after its eruption....
Kutesa rallies Christians to act on global crises
The president of the UN General Assembly, Sam Kutesa has rallied Christians across the globe to act decisively to address global crises....
More than 30 feared dead on Japan volcano
The first deaths were confirmed Sunday among more than 30 hikers feared killed near the peak of a Japanese volcano that erupted without warning, spewing ash, rocks and steam....
Zambia denies rumours of president
Zambia on Friday denied rumours that President Michael Sata had died during a visit to New York after he failed to make a scheduled speech to the UN general assembly....
Will police's move to increase the number of investigators help deal with fraud?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter