Still a lot of questions

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Still a lot of questions

One month has passed since the tragic sinking of the ferry Sewol. But many questions still remain unanswered.

A joint prosecution-police investigation team has arrested four of the Sewol crew, including the captain of the ferry, Lee Jun-seok, a first and second mate and the chief engineer, on charges of manslaughter by omission and charged 11 other crew members with lesser crimes. The joint investigation found that the four senior crew members avoided their responsibility to rescue hundreds of passengers aboard the ship when it was possible.

The investigation concluded that the ship capsized due to its low level of ballast water and overloaded cargo. Investigators said the crew didn’t tell passengers to escape from the ship when they could. They had time to go to their cabins before getting off the ship, and made no rescue efforts even when the Coast Guard and fishing vessels were nearby.

But the investigation couldn’t explain why the crew fled the ship leaving all passengers and some of their injured crew behind and why they didn’t order them to get out of the sinking ferry. The Coast Guard’s inaction for the passengers trapped in the ship while they rescued the captain and other crew still remains a mystery. We wonder if the Coast Guard’s investigation scheduled next month will answer all the questions.

The search-and-rescue campaign after the ferry sank also demands a thorough investigation. Though the Navy attached guidelines to the ferry to rescue people trapped inside on the day of the accident, divers only entered the submerged cabins two days later, losing precious time. If the investigation fails to explain why, it will further deepen the sorrow and anger of the victim’s families. The dubious connections between the Coast Guard and Undine Marine Industries, a private maritime salvage company on contract with the Coast Guard, also must be cleared up.

Relations between the Sewol and Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken ferry’s operator Chonghaejin, should be laid bare. Yoo allegedly received a monthly payment of 10 million won ($14,677) from Chonghaejin, and his two sons are the largest shareholders of I-One-I Holdings, a holding company of Chonghaejin. Yoo is suspected of being directly involved in remodeling the ship to carry more passengers and in the habitual overloading of cargo.

The authorities must solve all the mysteries and hold those in charge accountable for the disaster.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 16, Page 30

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