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Sewol victims commemorated on tragedy's 10th anniversary

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : April 16, 2024 - 17:23

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A bereaved family member tosses a flower during a memorial service held near Donggeochado of Jindo County, South Jeolla Province, Tuesday, in memory of victims who died 10 years prior on a ferry that sank on its way to Jeju Island on April 16, 2014. (Yonhap) A bereaved family member tosses a flower during a memorial service held near Donggeochado of Jindo County, South Jeolla Province, Tuesday, in memory of victims who died 10 years prior on a ferry that sank on its way to Jeju Island on April 16, 2014. (Yonhap)

A series of memorial events were held across the country Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the Sewol ferry tragedy, in remembrance of the 304 lives lost in Korea's worst maritime disaster.

At a ceremony held at the Hwarang Public Garden in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim Dong-yeon vowed to remember the 304 victims forever. Kim also lamented that no senior officials were held accountable for the failed disaster response.

"Another tragedy followed this tragedy. It is because no one has been responsible for the Sewol sinking, and (senior officials) have been rather to cover up the truth. Sadly, our reality has not changed from 10 years ago."

Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Dong-yeon delivers a memorial speech during a ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of the Sewol ferry accident that claimed 304 lives, mostly high school students on a school excursion, at the Hwarang Public Garden in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, on Tuesday. The ferry sank off the country's southwestern coast on its way to the country's southern Jeju Island on April 16, 2014. (Yonhap) Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Dong-yeon delivers a memorial speech during a ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of the Sewol ferry accident that claimed 304 lives, mostly high school students on a school excursion, at the Hwarang Public Garden in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, on Tuesday. The ferry sank off the country's southwestern coast on its way to the country's southern Jeju Island on April 16, 2014. (Yonhap)

Kim stressed that we need to remember the Sewol ferry sinking in the future. "Some people say 'Let's forget about the Sewol disaster now,' but they are wrong. We can't do that. Until the bereaved families and the victims are fully healed, and until human rights values are properly protected in our society, we should strive," Kim said.

"I will remember so that the lessons of the Sewol ferry will take root in our society. I will always try to make safety the top priority. in Gyeonggi Province," Kim noted.

Song Doo-hwan, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, also attended the memorial event held in Ansan on Tuesday. On Tuesday morning, Song issued a statement marking the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. In the statement released, Song urged the nation to build a safer society by learning from the lessons of the tragedy. Song also lamented that the exact cause of the Sewol ferry's sinking remains unconfirmed even after 10 years.

"We need to do serious soul-searching about why we could not find the truth and whether the current system, which failed to punish those responsible in a way acceptable to the people, is truly righteous," Song said.

"It's time to recall the promise we made 10 years ago and stand in solidarity with all those longing for a safe society," he added, calling on the government and the National Assembly to work together to undertake fundamental institutional improvements.

The vast majority of the tragedy's victims were second-year students and teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, who had embarked on a school trip to Jeju Island on April 16, 2014.

Among those in attendance at the memorial held in Ansan were the chairs and top officials of the ruling People Power Party and the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, including ruling party floor leader Yun Jae-ok and opposition floor leader Hong Ihk-pyo.

Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung was not at the event as he had to attend a court hearing in Seoul for an ongoing trial into corruption allegations against him.

The leaders and top officials of minor opposition parties, including the Green Justice Party, the New Future Party, the New Reform Party and the Rebuilding Korea Party, were also in attendance at the event.

Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-mon delivers a memorial speech during a ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of the Sewol ferry accident that claimed 304 lives, mostly high school students on a school excursion, at a cemetery in Incheon, 27 kilometers west of Seoul, on Tuesday. The ferry sank off the country's southwestern coast on its way to the country's southern Jeju Island on April 16, 2014. (Yonhap) Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-mon delivers a memorial speech during a ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of the Sewol ferry accident that claimed 304 lives, mostly high school students on a school excursion, at a cemetery in Incheon, 27 kilometers west of Seoul, on Tuesday. The ferry sank off the country's southwestern coast on its way to the country's southern Jeju Island on April 16, 2014. (Yonhap)

Several ministers, including Oceans and Fisheries Minister Kang Do-hyung, as well as heads of the local government, including Incheon Mayor Yoo Jeong-bok, were also present. President Yoon Suk Yeol offered his condolences during a televised Cabinet meeting but did not visit the memorial sites.

The president pledged to tighten safety measures for the security of the people during his televised address.

Separate memorial events were also held at a Sewol ferry memorial space in Seoul, a memorial hall for the victims in Incheon, the Daejeon National Cemetery, and a port in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, where the rusted wreck of the Sewol ferry is housed.

A commemoration ceremony is in progress at Incheon Family Park in Incheon, west of Seoul, on Tuesday, marking the 10th anniversary of the deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol. (Yonhap) A commemoration ceremony is in progress at Incheon Family Park in Incheon, west of Seoul, on Tuesday, marking the 10th anniversary of the deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol. (Yonhap)