Time to end wild rumorsThe 6,825-ton Sewol ferry that capsized off Jindo, an island in South Jeolla, on April 16, 2014 carrying 476 people onboard, resurfaced after lying on the seabed for 1,072 days. The ferry, estimated to weigh over 10,000 tons with cargoes and sediment inside, will be hauled to a dry dock in Mokpo soon. The massive job of hoisting the cruise ship up in one piece was stalled when workers discovered an opening in the cargo section.
The mighty ship, with its name Sewol hardly recognizable, was a terrible sight. But the hull more or less remained intact. Once it is safely towed to land, the wreck must be investigated thoroughly. What is most imperative is to find the remains of the nine missing bodies. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said nets were installed on and around the ferry so that bodies and articles won’t slip out of the holes in the ship punctured during the salvage operation.
Authorities should also be extra careful in the search. The government wants to cut into the ship, while families of the missing are demanding the search be carried out without damaging the ship. The work must be conducted so that it does not incur further conflict and misunderstandings. Authorities also should make sure that the mission does not cause pollution to the sea through an oil leak. They must respect the damages fishermen have suffered over the last three years due to a fishing ban.
The Sewol ferry crisis has left many questions unanswered. The state has completely lost public confidence throughout the entire affair. Some question why the hoisting took so long. They claim the work only picked up after former President Park Geun-hye was removed from office. Authorities argue the timing was coincidental. They had been studying and waiting for the best weather, sea, and technology conditions to pull up the gigantic ship without damaging it.
Still, there are rumors about the ship having collided with a submarine or some claiming the state spy agency was behind its sinking. All these suspicions and questions must be fully clarified after the hull arrives on land. The public must wait for the independent investigation committee to conduct the study. The committee comprised of eight experts — five named by the National Assembly and three by families — will examine the ship for up to 10 months. Its study must be scientific and thorough to leave no stones unturned.
The government must meanwhile reexamine the national safety system. The public’s awareness of safety must be heightened and the coast guard needs to be revived. We must learn the painful lesson from the Sewol ferry crisis to never allow such a tragedy to occur again.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 27, Page 30