Thousands mark second anniversary of ferry disaster

Published: Saturday 16th April 2016 by The News Editor

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Thousands of South Koreans are attending memorial events nationwide for more than 300 people who died in a ferry disaster two years ago.

About 2,500 people, including grieving family members and survivors, took part in an event marking the second anniversary of the sinking at a memorial altar in Ansan, where most of the victims lived, according to the city’s police.

Nearly 5,000 others are expected on Saturday night at a square in the capital Seoul, where relatives of the victims had camped for months in protest.

Police are braced for the possibility that the gathering may turn into an anti-government march, said an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

A total of 304 people, most of them students from a high school in Ansan, died when the ferry Sewol sank off South Korea’s south-west coast in April 2014 in a disaster partially blamed on official incompetence and corruption.

Divers recovered 295 bodies from the ship’s wreckage and nearby seas before the government stopped underwater searches after seven months. Nine victims remain missing.

The tragedy touched off an outpouring of national grief amid concerns about public safety. Relatives of the victims, angry that higher-level officials have not been held accountable, have been calling for a stronger investigation into the government’s responsibility for the disaster.

“We really want to move on,” said Jeon Myung-sun, father of one of the student victims, during a speech in Ansan. “We would be able to go back to our ordinary lives if the people who are responsible are held responsible, and after finding out why (the accident) happened and why our children had to die.”

South Korea’s top court in November last year upheld a life sentence for the ferry’s captain. The court concluded that he committed homicide by “wilful negligence” because he fled his ship without giving an evacuation order.

Published: Saturday 16th April 2016 by The News Editor

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