Provide a full investigation into the truth behind the Sewol disaster, punish those responsible and recover the remaining nine missing people!
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At 9 AM on April 16, 2014, after making a sharp turn, the Sewol ferry, its decks overladen with cargo, began to capsize off the southwest coast of South Korea. Hasty news reports of a full rescue raised family’s hopes only to dash them against the reality that only 172 had been evacuated and rescued, and 304 - mostly high school students - remained trapped inside. As the government stalled and fumbled through its emergency response during the “golden moments” of rescue, and as minutes turned to hours, and days into months, hope of rescue faded and anger mounted exacerbated by reckless inaccurate media reports and the government’s attempts to cover-up its ineptitude and sluggish response. A perfect storm of corporate greed, lax regulation, corruption, and government incompetence turned a simple accident into Korea’s worst maritime disaster in 40 years and questioned the legitimacy of a government focused on economic growth but negligent of its people’s well-being.
Now, nearly a year later, 295 bodies have been recovered, but 9 remain missing. Countless demonstrations, six million signatures, an eight month occupation of Gwanghwamun Square, and hunger strikes by the victims’ families have been carried out demanding the full truth behind the tragedy and punishment of those responsible. The government remains unresponsive paralyzed by special interests and fearful of the full implications of the truth; with bodies still missing and the truth covered up, victims’ families are denied the closure necessary to move on.
To uncover the truth and prevent such senseless deaths in the future, the victims’ families have been demanding the creation of a committee with full investigative and prosecutorial authority. The government’s response has been a timid anemic committee that has still not launched a full investigation due to departmental budget disagreements. Furthermore, while the families of those still missing are demanding the recovery of the Sewol to recover the missing bodies and uncover the truth, the government is balking ostensibly due to the costs of such mission.
Punishment for those responsible has been slow. The chief executive officer and five other employees of Cheonghaejin Marine, which owned the Sewol, are being prosecuted for negligence in the conduct of business, professional negligence resulting in death, and violating the Ships Safety Act after re-operating a 20 year old retired ship, illegally restructuring it, and overloading its top decks with cargo for greater profits. However, the current legal system makes difficult prosecution of these companies or its executives.
As the one year mark approaches on April 16th, some say, “Enough, stop fighting and just commemorate the one-year memorial quietly.” Yet, how can we ensure such tragedy does not re-occur, how can we give closure to victims’ families when the truth is covered up, the culprits are not held responsible, and nine bodies remain missing.
We must struggle against time, against the government’s efforts to cover up the truth, against a government dominated media, and against our own apathy, so that we do not forget, and so that we can create a society that values people’s well-being and safety over profits and where such tragedy cannot re-occur.
As we approach the one year mark to the Sewol tragedy, please take a few minutes and join our international campaign in solidarity with the victims’ families struggles:
* Participate in our photo campaign by holding a written message supporting the three demands above labeled by the hashtag #thetruthmustnotsinkwithsewol.
* Send us a copy of your picture to firstname.lastname@example.org
* Organize others to join the campaign
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