Sinking of the MV Sewol

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Sinking of the MV Sewol
세월호 침몰 사고
世越號沈沒事故
Korean Ferry Sewol Capsized, 2014.jpg
A picture of the MV Sewol capsizing, as taken by the Korea Coast Guard on April 16, 2014
Time Around 9 a.m. to around 11:30 a.m. (KST)
Date 16 April 2014 (2014-04-16)
Location 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) off Donggeochado,[1] Jindo County, South Jeolla Province, South Korea
Coordinates 34°13′5″N 125°57′0″E / 34.21806°N 125.95000°E / 34.21806; 125.95000Coordinates: 34°13′5″N 125°57′0″E / 34.21806°N 125.95000°E / 34.21806; 125.95000
Deaths 295 on-board[2]
2 rescue divers[3]
Missing 9[2]
Property damage Cargo: 200 billion[4]
Inquest 3 Separate investigations[5]
Suspect(s) Captain and 14 crew members[6]
Charges Homicide (4 including the captain),[7] Fleeing and abandoning ship (2),[8] Negligence (9)[8]
Verdict Guilty
Convictions 36 years (captain), 30 years (chief engineer), 5–20 years (13 other crew)[9]
On board 476[10][11][12] (>300 Danwon High School students)[13]
Survivors 172[14] (171 excluding the subsequent suicide of the vice principal of Danwon High School)

The sinking of the MV Sewol (Korean: 세월호 침몰 사고; Hanja: 世越號沉沒事故)[15] occurred on the morning of 16 April 2014 en route from Incheon to Jeju. The Japanese-built South Korean ferry capsized while carrying 476 people, mostly secondary school students from Danwon High School (Ansan City).[16] The 6,825-ton vessel sent a distress signal from about 2.7 kilometres (1.7 mi) north off Byeongpungdo at 08:58 Korea Standard Time (23:58 UTC, 15 April 2014).[17] In all, 304 passengers died in the disaster.[18] Of the approximately 172 survivors, many were rescued by fishing boats and other commercial vessels that arrived at the scene approximately 30 minutes before any South Korean coast guard or ROK Navy ships.[19][20] There are ongoing recovery efforts by the South Korean government, the United States Navy, civilian groups, and individuals.

The sinking of the Sewol has resulted in widespread social and political reaction within South Korea. Many criticize the actions of the captain and most of the crew of the ferry.[21] More criticize the ferry operator and the regulators who oversaw its operations.[22] Additional criticism has been directed at the South Korean government and media for its disaster response and attempts to downplay government culpability.[23] On 15 May 2014, the captain and 3 crew members were charged with murder, while the other 11 members of the crew were indicted for abandoning the ship.[24] An arrest warrant was also issued for Yoo Byung-eun, the owner of Chonghaejin Marine, which operated the Sewol, but he could not be found despite a nationwide manhunt. On 22 July 2014, police revealed that they had established that a dead man found in a field 415 kilometres south of Seoul was Yoo. Foul play was ruled out, but police say they have yet to establish the cause of Yoo's death.[18]

Background[edit]

At the time Chonghaejin Marine purchased the ship for 11.6 billion ($9.8 million) in 2012, the ship that would come to be known as the Motor Vessel (MV) Sewol was 18 years old and dilapidated.[25] The ship was built in 1994 by Hayashikane Dockyard, who had operated it in Japan for 18 years without a single accident.[26] She was named Ferry Naminoue during the time of operation and purchase.[27] The Korea Herald later quoted a shipping expert expressing the opinion that Sewol should have been discarded, given that the average lifespan of a ship was 15 years at that time.[28] Soon after the purchase, Chonghaejin made extensive modifications[29] by adding a total of 240 passenger cabins to the third, fourth, and fifth floors.[30][31] This led to an increase in the passenger capacity from 804 to 921 and an increase in weight by 239 tons, resulting in a left-right imbalance.[32][33] The ship's Hanja name had a religious connotation and meant to go "beyond the world".[27][34][note 1] Investigators later noted that the modifications had been made illegally.[35]

Sewol at a port in Incheon on March 2014, after modifications had been made

After the modification, Sewol had a legal capacity of 956 people including the crew, 180 vehicles, and 154 regular cargo containers.[36][37] She weighted a total of 6,825 tons, and had 46 rubber lifeboats, each with a capacity of 45.[38] She could travel at a maximum of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph).[39] From October 2012 to February 2013, she was subject to a 5-month testing period by the Korean Register of Shipping, after which the Register approved the modifications made.[40][32] However, the Register decreased the cargo capacity by half to 987 tons and required 2,000 tons of water to serve as ballast in order to provide balance.[41] The South Korea government's Audit and Inspection Board later revealed that the Register's licensing was based on falsified documents.[42] Prosecutors later estimated that 1,077 tons of cargo were permissible and that 1,695 tons of ballast was necessary to carry 1,077 tons of cargo.[43]

When Sewol began her operations on March 15, 2013, she became the fourth ship to be operated by the company, and the second to be placed in its route.[44][45] She made three round trips per week from Incheon to Jeju, each 400 kilometres (250 mi) voyage taking 13.5 hours to complete.[46][47] On February 2014, Sewol passed a vessel safety inspection by the South Korean Coast Guard.[48] She had made the round trip a total of 241 times until the day of the incident.[44]

Route of Sewol during the last voyage from Incheon to Jeju, the capsizing location marked by the rectangular speech bubble[49]

On the 15th of April, Sewol was scheduled to leave the port at Incheon on 6:30 p.m., Korea Standard Time; instead, she was delayed for two and a half hours due to a thick fog, and was the only ship to leave port on that evening, around 9 p.m.[50] When she departed, Sewol was carrying 476 passengers,[10][11][12] which was about half of her legal capacity of 921.[51] 325 of the passengers were students on a field trip from Danwon High School[52] and five passengers did not have a Korean nationality.[53] After the incident, the company reported that she was carrying 124 cars, 56 trucks, and 1157 tons of cargo.[54] The improperly secured cargo was loaded to twice the legal limit and is estimated to have been worth around 200 billion.[55][56]

The ship was commanded by 69-year old Captain Lee Joon-seok, a substitute captain who was brought in as a replacement for the regular captain.[57][58] He had over 40 years of experience at sea, and had traveled over the route before.[59] He was hired on a one-year contract, with a monthly payment of 2.7 million.[60] Lee was working with 33 crew members for the journey,[61] out of which 19 were irregular, part-time workers.[62]

Later investigations revealed that Sewol had been issued warnings regarding its seaworthiness.[63] The Korean Register of Shipping noted in a stability test report dated on the 24th of January, 2014 that Sewol had 'became top-heavy and less stable.'[64] Throughout the previous year, the regular captain warned the company about the decrease in stability and passenger satisfaction and attributed it to the removal of the side ramp, but the company responded by threatening to fire him; the last warning and threat was on the 9th of April 2014, seven days before the incident.[65] The captain had also requested a repair for the malfunctioning steering gear on the first of April 2014, which was not undertaken.[66] Before the last voyage, Sewol was loaded with 2,142 tons of cargo, twice the authorized limit of 1,077 tons, and 761 tons of ballast, less than half of the required 1,695 tons.[43] The company budget for the safety training of the crew was US$2, which was used to buy a paper certificate.[43]

16 April 2014[edit]

Voyage and the channel (08:00–08:47)[edit]

A photograph of passengers and crew on the ship on the morning of 16 April

On 16 April at 8:00 a.m. (KST), the 25-year old third mate, Park Han-gyeol, began her scheduled 4-hour shift on the bridge.[67][68] Although Park only had one year of experience in steering ships and an additional five months of experience on the Sewol, she was to guide the ship while steering at the helm; during this time, Captain Lee was not required by law to stay at the bridge.[69][31] Captain Lee left the helm at 8:08 a.m. and did not return for the next 30 minutes.[70]

Sometime before 8:48 a.m., Sewol entered the Maenggol Channel, which was notorious for its strong underwater currents, a condition exacerbated by the full moon from the night before.[40][71] The channel, which was 3.7 miles long and 2.8 miles wide, was located 11 miles from Jindo Island and served as a shortcut through the islets of the South coast of Korea.[67] While the wider area contained rock hazards and shallow waters, conditions were calm near the time of the incident and the immediate vicinity did not contain rocks or reefs.[72][46] Han Sang-sik, the head of the Jindo office of Dadohaehaesang National Park, later remarked that the width of the channel would have offered plenty of room for maneuvers.[40] The water temperature in the area was measured to be around 12 Celsius, which can cause hypothermia in 90 minutes.[73]

Park had no previous experience of steering through the channel.[74] CCTV data later recovered showed Captain Lee returning to the helm at 8:37 a.m. and leaving at 8:41 a.m., actions which were then repeated by the chief engineer.[75] Shortly before the incident, the ship was traveling at about 18 knots; according to Chris Ware, a professor of the Greenwich Maritime Institute, this speed was 'not excessive' and adequate for sharp turns.[76] Sewol followed its usual course until the sharp turn.[77]

"Turn ship to 145 degrees" (08:48)[edit]

Sharp turn[edit]

As Sewol approached the fatal turn, breakfast was being served in the cafeteria, leading rescue workers to later guess that a large number of people would have gathered there.[78] Passenger Kim Seong-mok later recalled eating breakfast just before the incident.[79] Passengers were also present in their personal cabins.[80] CCTV data taken on 8:40 a.m. showed students present and socializing on the deck.[81] Right before the incident, third mate Park was still at the helm, with Captain Lee absent from the steering room.[82] Helmsman Cho Joon-ki, who only had 6 months of experience on the Sewol, was under Third mate Park's command at the time.[83][84]

Right before 8:48 a.m., Helmsman Cho was directing the ship at 135 degrees, or 45 degrees southeast.[85] At 8:48, third mate Park, who was monitoring the radar and radio in the ship, came to believe that another ship was approaching in a collision course and gave two orders to Helmsman Cho to turn the ship, first to 140 degrees, then to 145 degrees.[86][87] The fast undercurrents of the area necessitated that turns must be smaller than five degrees[85] and third mate Park had previously received instructions from the regular captain that turns over five degrees should be cared for, as Sewol's restoring force was low.[88] The expert advisory panel on the police-prosecution joint investigation team later agreed that a turn greater than five degrees made under any conditions would have upset the ferry, concluding that she was in no shape to carry passengers.[89]

Starting at 8:48 a.m., Helmsman Cho heard Third Mate Park's orders and made turns to starboard.[90] The second turn, which made a turn of 10 degrees in one second, from 8:49:12 to 8:49:13, is considered especially sharp in that most large passenger ships would take 2 minutes to make a 5 degrees turn.[91] The Chief Engineer later testified that 10 seconds after Third Mate Park's orders were given, he heard Park stating 'it's not working there, it's not working;' when the Chief Engineer asked about the situation, Helmsman Cho replied that the 'steering gear was not working.'[92] As a response to the resulting imbalance, Third Mate Park ordered Helmsman Cho to balance the ship to "Port," but this order was misheard as a Korean word meaning to 'turn in the opposite direction,' a mishearing that did not affect the meaning.[91] The Chief Engineer testified that the ship began tilting right after Park's last order.[92]

The police-prosecution joint investigation team later found that Helmsman Cho had attempted a starboard turn, and turned the ship 15 degrees to starboard when he was flustered when he perceived the first turn as being inadequate.[87] The finding corresponded with Third Mate Park's testimony that the ship would not have tilted if a turn from 15 to 35 degrees was not made, and Captain Lee's statement that he later saw the helm indicator fixed on 15 degrees to starboard.[87][93] However, Helsman Cho later testified that he had only heard the first order to direct the ship by 140 degrees, not the second order for 145 degrees. According to Cho, he had turned three degrees to port because the ship continued to slip to starboard, and five degrees to port after the direction reached 145 degrees; he claimed that he turned 15 degrees to port after hearing third mate Park order for a restoration of balance.[87]

Later analysis of Sewol's track chart by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries revealed that the ship's Automatic Identification System had stopped collecting data from 8:48:37 to 8:49:13; consequently, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the Jindo Vessel traffic service (VTS) lost 36 and 29 seconds of data, respectively.[94][95] While earlier reports and investigations believed that there was a power outage,[96][97] Huh Yong-bum, the head of the expert advisory panel on the police-prosecution joint investigation team, testified that AIS failure was due to system limitations and that the failure did not affect the steering.[95]

According to the police-prosecution joint investigation team, the sharp turn was a combined result produced by the steering error and the lessened restoring force caused by overloading; investigations did not show any malfunctions with the generator or the battery.[33][98] From 8:49:26, AIS data showed Sewol's angular velocity accelerate from 0.29 radians per second to 0.83, 1.00, and 2.00 until 8:49:39; these readings were consistent with previous testing data gained from earlier tests conducted on an empty Sewol.[93] Consequently, the ship herself listed 20 degrees into the water; on 8:49:40, causing cargo to fall to one side of the ship.[99][100] The impact caused the ship's gyroscope to erroneously record angular velocities of 15 radians per second on 8:49:40, 14 on the next second, and -11 on the consequent second, and tilt the ship 10 degrees further into the water.[93][99] Passengers also reported hearing a loud 'bang.'[101]

Effects of the turn[edit]

As Helmsman Cho sharply turned the wheel from 135 to 150 degrees, Sewol began to list to port and tilt towards the water.[87] The overall effect of the turning was that the ship turned about 45 degrees to the right then rotated 22 degrees on the spot for a span of 20 seconds.[102] The cargo falling to one side of the ship caused Sewol to lose all her restoring force and allowed water to flow into the ship through the side door of the cargo loading bay and the car entrance located at the stern. This scenario was confirmed by simulations separately ran by the expert advisory panel on the police-prosecution joint investigation team, the Korea Research Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering, and the Advanced Marine Engineering Center of Seoul National University.[33] The Chief Engineer testified that the tilting lasted for about 2 to 3 minutes after the initial tilt.[92] During this time, Oh Yong-seok, an off-duty helmsman who was sleeping in his cabin at the time of the incident, was awakened when he was thrown against the port side of his cabin.[103] As of 8:50 a.m., Sewol was leaning 30 degrees to the left.[104]

Captain Lee, who was in his private cabin at the time of the incident,[105] immediately rushed to the steering house.[106] After a short period, all the ship's mates and helmsman arrived at the steering house.[103] Around this time, the Chief Engineer stopped the engines, although it is unknown whether it was on his own volition or following an order made by Captain Lee.[107] On 8:50, the chief engineer ordered an evacuation of the engine room through a call to the assistant engineer.[108] During this time, Third Mate Park was crying as she was taken aback by the sudden incident; this lasted until at least 9:06 a.m.[92][109]

With the engines off, Sewol became unable to change directions and began drifting sideways.[107][110] A passenger later testified that lights went out after the ferry started listing.[111]

Calls for Rescue (8:52–9:30)[edit]

Announcement repeated during capsizing

Do not move. Just stay where you are. It's dangerous if you move, so just stay where you are.

As reported by CNN on 18 April[112]

As the Sewol began sinking, the ferry's intercom system started ordering the passengers to stay put, alleging that moving was dangerous.[113] The announcements were made by a communication officer, Kang Hae-seong, who had not consulted the manual before the broadcast.[103] The announcements began broadcasting on at least 8:52 a.m.[114] and continued even when water began flooding passenger compartments.[115] Other crew members corroborated with this order, instructing passengers to stay put.[12] Captain Lee also instructed passengers to stay put and did not change the order even as he was leaving the ship.[116]

The first emergency call was made by Choi Duk-ha, a Danwon high school student abroad the ferry.[117] On 8:52 a.m., he called the national emergency service number and reported to the Jeollanam-do fire station that Sewol was capsizing.[118] Choi was connected to the Mokpo Coast Guard on 8:54 a.m. and was asked to give the latitude and longitude of the ship's location.[119] Three minutes later, the Mokpo Coast Guard station situation room ordered patrol vessel No. 123 to be dispatched to the scene; the vessel was launched on 8:58 a.m.[120][121] Following the Coast Guard search and rescue manual, the boat was to be in charge of surveying the area and 'swiftly' rescuing passengers.[120] Choi did not survive the capsizing and was later found dead.[27][122]

At 8:55 a.m., Sewol's crew made its first distress call to the Jeju vessel traffic service and asked the Jeju VTS to notify the coast guard as the ferry was rolling and in danger.[123][124] At 8:56 a.m., the Jeju VTS called the Jeju Coast Guard. Three minutes later, the Jeju Coast Guard called the Mokpo Coast Guard and discovered that a patrol boat has already been dispatched.[121] On 9:01 a.m., a crew member on the Sewol called the Incheon branch of Chonghaejin Marine to report the situation, and the Chonghaejin Marine headquarters located in Jeju then called Captain Lee on 9:03 a.m. for a report of the situation. The Incheon branch then had five phone calls with the first mate over the next 35 minutes.[125]

On 9:06 a.m., the Jindo VTS were informed of the capsizing incident through a notification by the Mokpo Coast Guard.[121] Around this time, the crew began communicating with the Jindo VTS, which was closer to her location.[124] For the next two minutes, Jindo VTS alerted two other ships that Sewol was sinking, with one confirming that it had visual contact with Sewol.[126] On 9:07 a.m., Sewol's crew confirmed that the ferry was capsizing and requested the help of the coast guard. At 9:14 a.m., the crew stated that the ship's angle of heel made evacuation impossible. Roughly around this time, the captain of Patrol Vessel 123 was appointed as the commander of the scene.[127] Four minutes afterwards, the crew of Sewol reported to the VTS that the ferry has heeled more than 50 degrees to port.[128]

At 9:23 a.m., VTS ordered the crew to inform the passengers to wear personal flotation devices. When the crew replied that the broadcasting equipment was out of order, VTS told them to personally order the passengers to wear life jackets and more clothing.[128] At 9:25 a.m., VTS asked the captain to decide quickly whether to evacuate the ship, stating that VTS did not have enough information to make the decision. When the captain inquired about the rescue, VTS replied that patrol boats were due to arrive in 10 minutes and a helicopter in one minute. The captain then replied that there were too many passengers for the helicopter.[128]

During this time, the captain told passengers to stay in their rooms.[129] The communications officer, using the ship's intercom, repeatedly ordered passengers not to move.[101][130]

Around 9:30 a.m., the captain gave orders to evacuate the ship, though the order may not have been relayed to all the passengers.[131] At 9:33 a.m., after confirming that nearby ships had volunteered to help in the rescue operations, VTS told all ships to drop lifeboats for the passengers. At 9:38 a.m., all communications were cut off between VTS and the ferry. About three minutes after all communications were cut, about 150 to 160 passengers and crew jumped overboard.[128]

The Sewol took two and a half hours to sink.[130] By around 11:18 a.m., the bow of the ship was submerged, with a section of the hull about 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) high and 20 to 30 metres (66 to 98 ft) long showing above the water. At 9:00 a.m. on 18 April, only 50 centimetres (20 in) of the bulbous bow was above water.[132] As of 1:03 p.m., the ship was completely submerged.[133]

Captain and crew[edit]

During the capsizing, some members of the crew drank beer.[134] The crew also had seven phone calls with staff from Chonghaejin Marine.[135] As passengers stayed in their cabins as instructed, the captain and crew members abandoned ship.[136] The captain, the chief engineer, and the chief and second mates were the first people to be rescued.[137] The captain was rescued around 9:46 a.m.[138][139]

Passengers[edit]

During the capsizing, some passengers followed the announcements to stay put, even as the water came in.[140] Most of the student passengers obeyed the announcements.[141] Some passengers who climbed to the top of the ship or jumped into the water were rescued.[142]

Videos recording passengers during the capsizing have been made and recovered.[143][144] Videos have recorded announcements to stay in place and put on life jackets,[145] as well as passengers joking around,[143] putting on life jackets,[145] and sending farewells.[144]

Passengers made calls[141] and sent text messages[146] and KakaoTalk mobile messages[147] during the capsizing. The last message was sent on 10:17 a.m.[139] Text messages and social media posts allegedly made by survivors after the capsizing have circulated in the media, but an investigation by the Cyber Terror Response Center found that passengers did not use their phones between 12:00 p.m. of 16 April and 10:00 a.m. of 17 April[148] and that all the reported survivors' messages were fake.[149]

Rescue operations[edit]

During the capsizing and the subsequent reporting, the government's announcements, as well as the media, have been inconsistent and inaccurate.[150] An editorial in The Huffington Post stated that the governmental reports were like a rubber band, 'increasing at one moment and decreasing at another.'[151] Newspapers such as The JoongAng Ilbo, MBN, and JTBC have made corrections and apologies concerning their earlier reports.[152] Conspiracy theories have also been present.[153]

First day[edit]

Sewol sinking

At 8:58 a.m. (KST) on 16 April 2014, the Mokpo Coast Guard dispatched patrol vessel No. 123 in response to the first report of the incident.[121] After receiving the news of the capsizing from the Jeollanam Provincial Government, the Republic of Korea Navy 3rd Fleet sent a Gumdoksuri-class patrol vessel (PKG) to the accident site on 9:03 a.m.; the Navy dispatched another PKG at 9:09 a.m.[154] On 9:04 a.m., the government created the Central Disaster Countermeasure Headquarters (중앙재난안전대책본부), as an organization which would directly report to the government. The South Korean Coast Guard set up a rescue operations headquarters at 9:10 a.m.[155]

Patrol vessel No.123 arrived at the scene near 9:30 a.m.[121] as the first ship to reach the site after the incident.[156] During the time between the dispatch and the operations, members failed to raise the Sewol, and chose to call for other ships on the radio.[157] Consequently, members on the vessel had not directly communicated with the Sewol, and was not aware of the content of the communication between the Sewol and the Jindo VTS on arrival.[158] At the time of arrival, the Sewol was tilted about 50 to 60 degrees to port.[159] When the vessel arrived, members made announcements calling people to abandon ship and jump into the waters for five minutes.[157] The vessel began rescue operations on 9:38 a.m., with the dispatching of a rubber boat.[159] Passengers who have reached the deck or jumped into the water were rescued, including the captain, but rescue members could not get inside the ship due to the tilt.[157] However, people trapped inside the pilothouse were rescued by breaking through the windows.[157]

At 9:35 a.m., The Korean Ministry of National Defense started operating Counter-disaster Headquarters (재난대책본부). At 9:40 a.m., the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries declared the accident to be the highest state of emergency in terms of naval accidents; consequently, the Central Accident Response Headquarters (중앙사고수습본부) was established.[160] At the same time, the Ministry of Health and Welfare sent emergency vehicles and the first squad of the Disaster Medical Support Team (재난의료지원팀) to Jindo.[161] At 11:28 a.m., the Korea Navy's Ship Salvage Unit (SSU) was reported to have been deployed for the operations.[162]

At 2:42 p.m., 150 special forces personnel from the ROK Army Special Warfare Command, including 40 scuba divers, were sent for the operation. At this point, 196 personnel, including 82 in the SSU and 114 in the ROK Naval Special Warfare Flotilla were involved in the operations.[163] On 3:07, the regional government of the Gyeonggi Province was reported to have started operating the Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters (재난안전대책본부).[164] After 5 p.m., units from the SSU began undersea operations.[165] At 5:13, the Gyeonggi-do Office of Education was reported to have started operating the Ansan Danwon High School Accident Countermeasures Report Compiling Headquarters (안산 단원고 사고대책 종합상황본부).[166] At 8:00, operations investigating the ship's hull was ceased.[167]

As of 22:03, the following units were involved in rescue operations: Naval forces include sailors from the 3rd Fleet (제3함대; 第三艦隊), a Dokdo-class amphibious assault ship, a Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin-class destroyer, and an Ulsan-class frigate. The ROK Air Force sent support units such as the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk, and HH-47 variant of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook. The ROK Army sent units including 150 Special Warfare Command soldiers and 11 ambulances.[168]

Second day[edit]

A U.S. Navy MH-60S Seahawk helicopter conducted search and rescue operations at the request of the South Korean navy near where the Sewol sank, on 17 April 2014.

Starting on 17 April, Undine Marine Industries Co., a privately held company,[169] began to lead the search for missing passengers.[170] At 0:30 a.m., hull investigations were started by the ROK Coast Guard with the help of flares.[171] As of 6:00 a.m., 171 ships, 29 aircraft and 30 divers were involved in the rescue effort. The Korea Coast Guard had assigned 20 divers in teams of two. The ROK Navy had also assigned 8 divers.[172] However, the Coast Guard prevented Navy divers from participating[170] while waiting for divers from Undine Industries.[173] At 7:24 a.m., civilian groups of expert divers were reported to be helping out in the rescue operations.[174] During the morning, the number of divers involved in the operations reached 555.[175] The Navy also established a military control tower on a Dokdo-class amphibious assault ship.[176] Starting around 2:00 p.m., rescue operations were practically stopped due to bad weather conditions.[177] A marine crane arrived on the scene at night.[178]

Subsequent operations[edit]

At 10:50 a.m. on 18 April,[179] the ROK Coast Guard began pumping in air to support possible air pockets.[130] At the same time, divers entered the capsized ship's hull[180] but only gained access to the cargo deck.[181] The divers' entrance was later labeled a 'failure' by the Central Disaster Countermeasure Headquarters.[182] On 19 April, a Navy petty officer who was injured during rescue operations died.[183] On 21 April, remotely operated underwater vehicles began to be used for operations.[184] On 24 April, the CR2000 'Crabster' robot was sent to the rescue site.[185] On 6 May,[186] a diver working for Undine Marine Industries died during the search.[187] This was followed by another diver's death on 30 May.[188] On 17 July, a firefighting helicopter returning from rescue operations crashed near an apartment complex, killing all five officers aboard and injuring a high school student.[189][190]

Survivors and casualties[edit]

On 11:01 a.m., Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) began reporting that all students have been rescued; this news was re-reported by other news organizations, and continued until 11:26 a.m.[191] Around 11 a.m. (KST), officers working for the educational departments for the Gyeonggi Province sent text messages to the students' parents stating that all students have been rescued.[192] The officers' belief was apparently confirmed by a police officer in the Danwon Police Department.[191] Initial reports stated that rescuers retrieved 368 people from cold waters as the passengers, mostly school students, had jumped overboard when the vessel started sinking, but the South Korean government later corrected this statement, saying 295 passengers remained missing.[193] 22 of the 29 crew survived, including 15 responsible for the navigation.[194]

Early in the rescue efforts, a 27-year-old female crew member was found dead inside the sinking vessel and a male high school student died shortly after arriving at a hospital.[195][196]

In its 17 April morning edition, The Chosun Ilbo reported that 174 people had been rescued, 4 had died, and 284 were missing.[197] According to CNN and its affiliate YTN, six people died.[198] News1 Korea reported that, as of 8:00 a.m. on 17 April 179 people had been rescued, 6 had died and 290 were missing.[172] Three more people were found dead at 11:00 a.m. and the confirmed death toll rose to 9.[199] At 10 p.m., Yonhap news confirmed that the death toll had risen to 14.[200] By the morning of 18 April, the death toll had risen to 28.[201] On 19 April, the death toll rose to 36.[202] By 20 April, the death toll reached 49.[203][204] By 6 May, a diver searching the sunken ferry had died; not including the diver, the death toll in the ferry disaster rose to 264, with 38 people still missing.[205] By 10 May 2014, the death toll reached 275, with dozens more still missing.[206] By 21 May, the death toll had risen to 288, leaving 16 missing.[207] As of 21 May, the 16 missing were 7 Danwon High School students, 3 Danwon High School teachers, 4 other passengers, and 2 cabin crew members.[208] On 5 and 6 June, one dead passenger and one dead cabin crew member were found, bringing the casualty count to 290, while the number of missing passengers was down to 14.[209][210] By 9 June 2014, a 28-year-old female Danwon High School teacher as well as a 17-year-old male Danwon high school student were found bringing the death toll to 292 and leaving 12 missing.[211][212][213] On 24 June, the body of a female student was recovered bringing the death toll to 293 and lowering the missing to 11, including 5 Danwon High School students.[214] The death toll stands at 294 with 10 missing as of the 22nd July 2014 with the recovery of the last cabin crew member.[215]

The sinking of the Sewol is the worst ferry disaster in South Korea since 14 December 1970, when the sinking of the ferry Namyoung cost 326 people out of 338 their lives.[216][217]

Foreign response[edit]

U.S. Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit responding to the scene of the Sewol sinking on 16 April 2014.
  • As well as a message of sympathy and condolences from the Japanese government, the Japan Coast Guard offered support. The South Korean Coast Guard declined the offer, saying that, while the offer was welcome, special assistance was not needed on this occasion.[223]

Investigation[edit]

Causes[edit]

Direct causes[edit]

As of 17 April, the ROK Coast Guard has concluded that an "unreasonably sudden turn" to starboard,[224] made between 8:48 and 8:49 a.m. (KST),[225] was the cause of the capsizing.[224] According to the Coast Guard, the sudden turn caused the cargo to shift to the left, causing the ship to experience an incline and to eventually become unmanageable for the crew.[224] The existence of the sudden turn has been confirmed by the analysis of the ship's Automatic Identification System data.[226] The crew of the ferry has agreed that the main cause was the sudden turn.[227] Experts such as Lee Sang-yun (Korean: 이상윤), a professor and head of the environment/maritime technology institute of the Pukyong National University, have also agreed.[228]

Overloading and not properly securing cargo are also being seen as direct causes.[229] The MV Sewol was carrying 3,608 tons of cargo, more than three times the limit of 987 tons.[230] The overloading was also previously noted by an off-duty captain and the first mate.[231] Lee Sang-yun also proposed overloading as a cause.[232] According to the off-duty captain of the Sewol, the ship owners ignored his warning that the ship should not carry so much cargo because she would not be stable.[233]

The Sewol was carrying only 580 tons of ballast water, much less than the recommended 2,030 tons; this would make the vessel more prone to list and capsize.[234] South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo argued that the discharging of ballast water was a cause of the incident.[235] The crew had reportedly pumped out hundreds of tons of ballast water from the bottom of the ship in order to accommodate the additional cargo.[236]

Secondary causes[edit]

Secondary causes have also affected the capsizing of the ferry by decreasing the restoring force.[237] The crew of the ferry stated that the lack of restoring force was a cause of the disaster.[227] The Prosecution/Police Coalition Investigations Headquarters (검경합동수사본부) is currently investigating secondary causes which could have lessened the ship's restoring force.[238]

Renovations adding extra passenger cabins have been proposed as a main secondary cause by Kim Gill-soo (Korean: 김길수), a professor in the maritime transport technological department at the Korea Maritime University.[239][240] This possible cause has also been supported by the captain,[241] as well as the aforementioned Lee Sang-yun.[228]

Obsolete theories[edit]

Explosion[edit]

Gong Gil-young (Korean: 공길영), a professor of aviation engineering at Korea Maritime University, commented that the sudden turn was simply the 'first cause' and that there were secondary causes to the incident. He advocated an explosion as the most probable secondary cause.[242][243]

Reef collision[edit]

At the beginning of the investigation, the ROK Coast Guard thought that the cause was a collision with a reef, believing this likely because the area was foggy.[244] The captain denied this was the cause of the accident,[245] and a reef collision has been dismissed as a cause by consensus among experts.[246] The theory is also not currently advocated by the Coast Guard.[224]

Captain and crew[edit]

On 19 April, the captain of the ferry was arrested on suspicion of negligence of duty, violation of maritime law and other infringements.[247] The captain had abandoned the ship with passengers still aboard the ferry, while South Korean law explicitly requires captains to remain on the ship during a disaster.[248][249][250] Two other crew members, a helmsman and the third mate, were also arrested on that day on suspicion of negligence and manslaughter.[251] By 26 April, twelve further arrests had been made with the whole crew responsible for navigation in detention.[252][253]

On 15 May, Captain Lee Jun-seok, First Mate Kang Won-sik (who was responsible for managing the ship's ballast), Second Mate Kim Young-ho, and Chief Engineer Park Gi-ho were indicted on charges of homicide through gross negligence (also described as murder), which carry a potential death penalty.[236][254][255][256] The other eleven crew members face lesser charges of abandoning the ship and ship safety offences.[24]

Three crew members, Park Ji-Young, Jeong Hyun-seon, and Kim Ki-woong, are credited by survivors with staying aboard the ferry to help passengers escape. All three went down with the sinking vessel.[257]

Operators[edit]

On 8 May, the chief executive of Chonghaejin Marine, Kim Han-sik, was arrested and is facing charges including causing death by negligence.[258] Four other company officials were also taken into custody.[259]

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries cancelled Chonghaejin Marine's license to operate ferries on the Incheon-Jeju Island route in May 2014.[260]

Owners[edit]

Yoo Byung-eun, former chairman of Chonghaejin Marine, ignored Incheon District Prosecutors' Office summonses,[261][262][263] and went into hiding.[264][265][266] On 22 May, the Incheon District Court issued an arrest warrant and Korean authorities offered a 50 million (US$48,800) reward for information leading to the arrest of Yoo.[267][268] On 25 May, the reward was raised tenfold to ₩500 million (US$488,000).[269][270] On 21 July 2014, it was reported that a body found in a field in June was believed to be Yoo's.[271]

Regulation[edit]

The disaster raised questions about the regulation of shipping in South Korea. Shipping is regulated by the Korean Shipping Association, which is also an industry trade group, which experts consider a likely conflict of interest. In addition, government regulators outside the Association frequently move to jobs as part of the association after their government service. Yun Jong-hwui, a professor at Korea Maritime and Ocean University notes that while South Korean regulations are strong, they are often poorly enforced.[272]

Legal case[edit]

On 3 June, the Gwangju District Court issued arrest warrants for a senior vessel safety operator of the Korea Shipping Association's Incheon unit and a vessel inspector of the Korean Register of Shipping's Mokpo unit.[273] Amongst 15, accused for the sinking, prosecutors sought the death penalty for the captain under the charge of homicide. The prosecution told the court he failed to carry out his duty, before resting its case in a trial. Lead prosecutor Park Jae-eok said: "Lee supplied the cause of the sinking of the Sewol...he has the heaviest responsibility for the accident. We ask that the court sentence him to death." While no formal pleas were made, Lee denied intent to kill. The others had lesser charges, including negligence. A three-judge panel would announce its verdicts in November.[274]The Incheon District Court on Wednesday 5 November sentenced the late ferry owner Yoo Byung-eun’s eldest son Yoo Dae-kyoon to three years in prison for embezzlement and breach of trust.[275] Finally, on 11 November 2014, the Gwangju District Court found Captain Lee Jun-seok guilty of negligence and he was sentenced to 36 years' imprisonment. The judges said that he was clearly not the only person responsible for the tragedy and they accepted that his negligence did not amount to an intent to kill. The chief engineer of the ferry, identified by his surname Park, was found guilty of murder and jailed for 30 years. Thirteen other crew members were given jail sentences of up to 20 years on charges including abandonment and violating maritime law.

Relatives of victims were distraught at the verdict, with some weeping. The AFP news agency reported that one woman screamed in the courtroom: "It's not fair. What about the lives of our children? They (the defendants) deserve worse than death."[276]

Reactions[edit]

A memorial wall near the Danwon High School, where most of the victims were from
A memorial ceremony in Hwarang Public Garden, a park near the Danwon High School

Political[edit]

In addition to reaction against the actions of the captain and much of the crew of the Sewol,[277] there has been a much wider political reaction to the disaster. Criticism has ranged from anger at the lax regulatory environment which may have contributed to the safety violations that could have sunk the Sewol,[278] to anger about the rescue operations,[279] to anger at Park Geun-hye, the President of South Korea, whose approval ratings have fallen from a high of 71 percent before the disaster to "the 40 percent range" weeks afterwards.[280]

Political reaction to the Sewol sinking has been intensified by a series of events. A prominent South Korean politician from the ruling Saenuri Party, Chung Mong-joon, was forced to apologize when his son wrote a controversial Facebook post criticizing the public for criticizing the government over the disaster.[281] Many parents of the victims of the tragedy have been expressing deep anger at the government, ranging from reportedly berating Prime Minister Jung Hong-won[282] to shouting at President Park Geun-hye,[283] to parents staging protests at the presidential palace itself, partly inflamed by a reported remark by a senior news editor at the government-influenced Korean Broadcasting System that the number of dead in the ferry tragedy was "not many, compared with the number of people killed in traffic accidents each year".[284]

Barack Obama, the President of the United States, sent his condolences, stated that the United States would help in the search for survivors and during a state visit to South Korea presented a magnolia tree from the White House to the high school.[285][286] Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe offered sympathy to the victims.[287] Truong Tan Sang, the President of Vietnam, as well as the deputy prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs sent their condolences to Yun Byung-se, South Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs.[288] Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sent their condolences to the president of South Korea.[289] Xi Jinping, the President of China, sent messages on condolences to Park.[290][291]

On 27 April, Jung Hong-won, the prime minister of South Korea, accepted responsibility and announced his resignation.[292]

On 29 April, South Korean president Park Geun-hye indirectly apologized for the government's response to ferry sinking.[293][294][295]

On 30 April, North Korea sent its condolences.[296]

On 18 May 2014, BBC reported that President Park Geun-hye announced South Korea "plans to break up its coastguard" after failing to respond well during the MV Sewol ferry disaster.[297] According to Park, "investigation and information roles will be transferred to the Korean police while the rescue and salvage operation and ocean security roles will be transferred to the Department for National Safety[298] which will be newly established".[299]

Civilian[edit]

Pope Francis wearing a yellow ribbon on his 2014 state visit to South Korea.

On 17 April, a representative of the Cheonghaejin Marine Company apologized for the incident.[300] The chairman and CEO of Korean Register of Shipping, Chon Young-Kee, resigned on 28 April, following raids on KR offices by South Korean prosecutors.[301]

On 18 April, the rescued vice principal of Danwon High School Kang Min-kyu, 52, committed suicide by hanging himself. Police stated that a note was found in his wallet.[302] He had organized the field trip that had brought the high school party aboard the ship, and Kang had written in his two-page note that "Surviving alone is too painful when 200 lives are unaccounted for ... I take full responsibility."[303][304] The note ended with a request that his body be cremated and the ashes scattered over the site of the accident, "that I might be a teacher in heaven to those kids whose bodies have not been found."[305]

On 22 April, a netizen made a post encouraging others to take part in the 'KakaoTalk yellow ribbon wearing campaign.' The image accompanying the post had a caption stating, 'One small movement, big miracles'.[306][307] Since then, the yellow ribbon has gained meaning to symbolize mourning.[308] The ribbons are prominent in the social media, sometimes as profile photos.[309] Celebrities such as Jo Kwon and Hye-rim Park had joined this movement.[307]

The disaster is the subject of the 2014 documentary film The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol.[310]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Alternative meanings that have been reported include time and tide, which is a mistranslation that goes against the Hanja of the name

References[edit]

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  127. ^ Cite error: The named reference Hani_Evidence was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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    • Translation by Wall Street Journal [1]
    • Translation by CNN [2]
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    • Translation [3]
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External links[edit]