The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

South Korean ferry sinks on field trip

Number 58. Male student. Skinny, with pimples and braces. Wearing a light green hoodie.

A woman walks into a tent, sobbing, as she gives 58 a name: Jin Woohyuk.

Such numbers and descriptions lay sprawling across a white board in Jindo, South Korea. Volunteers gradually match names with descriptions as family members identify their lost loved ones.

“The sinking becomes all the more tragic when you look at how many of the victims were students with the rest of their lives ahead of them,” said Early College senior Akosua Bekoe.

The passenger ferry, Sewol, sunk off the southern coast of South Korea on April 15. Rescuers have uncovered 187 bodies from the wreckage, but 115 remain missing. Only 76 escaped the sinking ferry alive.

Most of the passengers were high school students on a field trip to the Jeju Islands.

“It frightens me to think about what was going through the students’ minds during their last hours,” said Lee Dong Gyu, a high school sophomore in Seoul, South Korea, in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. “One moment you’re on a fun field trip with all of your friends, and the next moment you’re on your way to a watery grave.”

As the search for missing bodies continues, surviving crew members face prosecution from the South Korean government.

“The captain did not comply with passenger evacuation orders from the vessel traffic service  and escaped ahead of others while telling passengers to keep their seats,” said South Korean President Park Geun-hye during a press conference. “This is something that is never imaginable, legally or ethically.”

The captain, Lee Joon-seok, told passengers to stay under the deck as the ferry started to sink and quickly evacuated other crew members along with himself when circumstances looked grim.

“The crew did very little to help those students when it was their duty to secure the safety of the people on the ferry,” said Seoul native Chun Min Jun in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. “I believe that many more people could have been saved had the crew followed proper procedures rather than save themselves.”

Any hope for survivors stranded on the boat has diminished, as the ferry shifted too much during the sinking for any air pockets to stay under the boat.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned on the morning of April 27 due to his discontent with the government’s initial reaction to the disaster.

Authorities have also investigated the offices of Cheonghaejin Marine Company, which owned the sunken ferry. They suspect Sewol to have been illegally modified to accommodate more passengers, sacrificing easy access to lifeboats and proper stowage of cargo among other issues.

As the South Korean government searched for answers, families of the victims held a memorial service at Danwon High School in Ansan, the hometown of most of the victims.

“It was a very emotional service,” said Lee Dong Gyu. “I used to live in Ansan, so I played soccer and baseball with a few of the victims.

“I still kept in touch with them, and I was shocked to learn that the people who I thought I would grow old with had passed.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *