To­ward a safer korea

JoongAng Daily - - Views -

Min­is­ter of Land, In­fra­struc­ture and Trans­port Lee Ju-young an­nounced yes­ter­day that the gov­ern­ment will end the 209-day un­der­wa­ter search for the re­mains of the vic­tims of the Se­wol ferry tragedy. So far, 295 bod­ies of the miss­ing 304 pas­sen­gers have been pulled to the sur­face. De­spite the un­ceas­ing grief of the rel­a­tives of the re­main­ing nine pas­sen­gers, the gov­ern­ment took the right decision.

We pay our deep­est re­spects to the rel­a­tives who agreed to the gov­ern­ment’s decision de­spite the un­fath­omable pain of know­ing their loved ones’ bod­ies are in the dark sea off the na­tion’s south­west coast. We also praise Min­is­ter Lee for his per­sis­tent ef­forts to elicit con­ces­sions from the rel­a­tives through his sig­na­ture hu­mil­ity and em­pa­thy with the fam­i­lies. Divers have strug­gled to re­trieve the bod­ies for nearly seven months at the risk of their own lives amid tur­bu­lent waves and near-zero vis­i­bil­ity. The search team re­ally made a re­mark­able achieve­ment by sal­vaging 295 bod­ies from the sunken ship.

The Se­wol calamity laid bare many shame­ful as­pects of our so­ci­ety, as seen in the cap­tain and other crew mem­bers who fled the sink­ing ship leav­ing all the pas­sen­gers be­hind; the CEO of a shipping company who turned a blind eye to the safety of pas­sen­gers out of greed for more prof­its; the Coast Guard that didn’t lift a fin­ger to res­cue pas­sen­gers from a cap­siz­ing ship; and the gov­ern­ment that failed to ac­ti­vate the con­tin­gency man­age­ment sys­tem in the mid­dle of a cri­sis. None did their fair share. The fight over how to un­cover the whole truth be­hind the dis­as­ter vividly showed the dis­grace­ful level of our prob­lem-solv­ing abil­i­ties and pub­lic conscience.

The Se­wol tragedy was not sim­ply a mar­itime dis­as­ter. It had such a pro­found im­pact on our so­ci­ety that our age is now di­vided into the pre- and post-Se­wol eras.

Even after the Se­wol calamity, an in­ferno at a bus ter­mi­nal and tragic deaths of spec­ta­tors at a Kpop con­cert fol­lowed. Our so­ci­ety was too busy pin­ning blame on oth­ers to unite to over­haul our cul­ture of safety.

The Na­tional Assem­bly man­aged to pass the spe­cial Se­wol law on Nov. 7 and yes­ter­day a court sentenced Lee Jun-seok, cap­tain of the Se­wol, to a 36-year prison term. The gov­ern­ment’s decision to stop the search should be a new start­ing point for our so­ci­ety. We hope the rel­a­tives of the vic­tims end their sit-ins and join the fact-find­ing probe of the dis­as­ter. Now is the time for our so­ci­ety to unite to draw up safety mea­sures to avert another man­made dis­as­ter. That’s the only way to honor the tragic deaths of more than 300 pas­sen­gers.

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