Par­ents of S. Korean ferry vic­tims com­plete marathon protest march

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE -

Griev­ing par­ents of the vic­tims of last year’s South Korean ferry sink­ing com­pleted a 46-kilo­me­ter (28-miles) marathon march on Sun­day to call for an in­de­pen­dent probe into the tragedy.

More than 600 peo­ple, in­clud­ing rel­a­tives of 250 high school stu­dents killed in the sink­ing, marched across Seoul for two days to protest what they say is the gov­ern­ment’s at­tempt to in­flu­ence the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The event was held ahead of the emo­tional first an­niver­sary of the dis­as­ter, which left more than 300 dead or miss­ing af­ter the over­loaded Se­wol ferry sank off the coun­try’s southeast on April 16, 2014.

The ac­ci­dent — blamed by many on reg­u­la­tory fail­ings, of­fi­cial in­com­pe­tence and the ship’s il­le­gal re­design — deeply trau­ma­tized the na­tion and sparked soul-search­ing about lax safety stan­dards in the Asia’s fourth­largest econ­omy.

Some of the par­ents tak­ing part in the march had newly shaven heads — a sym­bol of protest and de­ter­mi­na­tion — and held black­rib­boned framed por­traits of their dead chil­dren.

They were joined by hun­dreds of sup­port­ers, many of them teenagers, who held ban­ners slam­ming the gov­ern­ment.

Over the past year, fam­i­lies have re­peat­edly staged street protests and sit-ins, de­mand­ing a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye and urg­ing her to de­liver on her prom­ise to con­tinue the search for the still miss­ing bod­ies and to en­sure a thor­ough probe into the dis­as­ter.

Fol­low­ing months of po­lit­i­cal bickering, Seoul law­mak­ers passed a bill in Novem­ber launch­ing an in­de­pen­dent probe, led by the 17-mem­ber com­mit­tee.

But some com­mit­tee mem­bers ac­cused Seoul of try­ing to ham­per the probe and con­tain po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal fall­out by ap­point­ing state of­fi­cials to key posts in the com­mit­tee.

Dur­ing the Sun­day’s march, many by­standers clapped, cheered or wept as they watched the par­ents march in the rain, fol­lowed by the long line of sup­port­ers who walked in si­lence.

“We have marched all this way be­cause the gov­ern­ment and the pres­i­dent did not keep their prom­ise to get to the bot­tom of this tragedy,” said Jun Myung­sun, clutch­ing a framed por­trait of his son who died in the tragedy.

Dur­ing a can­dle-lit vigil held near the pres­i­den­tial palace, the marchers chanted slo­gans, in­clud­ing “Pun­ish those re­spon­si­ble!” and “Stop in­sult­ing the fam­i­lies!”

More than 50 peo­ple have been put on trial on charges linked to the sink­ing, in­clud­ing 15 mem­bers — who were among the first to climb into lifeboats.

But many crit­ics in­clud­ing the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies have called for big­ger ef­forts to in­ves­ti­gate what they say root cause of the prob­lem, in­clud­ing cozy ties be­tween busi­nesses and reg­u­la­tors.

AP

Rel­a­tives car­ry­ing the por­traits of the vic­tims of the South Korean ferry sink­ing that killed more than 300 peo­ple a year ago, march dur­ing a rally in Seoul, on Sun­day, April 5.

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