The Sewol, the ill-fated, controversial South Korean vessel that claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent lives back in 2014, has successfully been raised to the surface on Thursday. The vessel had been underwater for almost three years, possibly still holding the remaining passengers that were never accounted for during the initial search for the naval tragedy’s search for possible survivors.
The raising of the ill-fated 6,825-ton Sewol, which met its untimely end of the southwestern tip of the Asian nation on April 16, 2014, was a crucial step forward for families who were directly affected by the incident. Overall, the Sewol tragedy went down in South Korea’s history as one of the country’s worst maritime disasters, with the current casualties standing at a staggering 295 out of the ferry’s 476 passengers, according to an ABC News report.
While the sinking of the ship was a tragedy in itself, what managed to strike a raw nerve among South Koreans was the fact that most of the tragedy’s casualties were students from Danwon High School in Ansan, located south of the Asian country. Among the 324 students who were on the ferry, 250 have already been confirmed dead.
The overall handling of the disaster by the South Korean government proved pivotal to the ousting of former President Park Geun-Hye, whose response to the incident was criticized across South Korea, according to a New York Times report. During the former president’s impeachment, her allegedly poor handling of the crisis became a focal point for the calls for her removal, which included reports that Ms. Park opted to remain at her home for hours even after being informed of the disaster.
The firm behind the Sewol, Chonghaejin Marine, was also criticized widely for its business practices. Over the course of the investigations into the incident, it was revealed that the firm had a penchant for overloading the ill-fated vessel with unsecured cargo. Apart from this, South Koreans were aghast at the actions of the Sewol’s crew, many of whom immediately fled as soon as the vessel began capsizing, even after telling passengers to stay in their cabins.
Lee Jun-Seok, the captain of the Sewol and reportedly among the first people to flee from the sinking vessel, was ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment after being charged and convicted of murder through “willful negligence.” More than a dozen crew members were also given sentences, ranging from as short as 18 months to as long as 12 years. Officials of the Sewol’s operators, members of the Coast Guard and safety inspectors were also sent to jail for their failure to appropriately respond to the tragedy as it unfolded.
- Here is a closer look at the most notable events that have transpired since the Sewol met its end in the murky waters of South Korea.
- April 16, 2014 – The Sewol, carrying 476 passengers, begins sinking off South Korea’s southwestern coast. Hundreds of high school students, who were on a trip to a resort, comprised the majority of the vessel’s passengers.
- April 18, 2014 – The ill-fated vessel completely sinks below the surface. Rescue efforts continue.
- April 19, 2014 – The Sewol’s captain, together with two other crew members, were detained over suspicions of willful negligence while on duty. Charges of violations of maritime law and several other grievances were also put forward.
- May 19, 2014 – President Park Geun-Hye accuses the Coast Guard over unsuccessful rescue operations. In response, Park’s critics accuse the president of shifting the blame to the Coast Guard, considering her rather inadequate response to the incident.
- July 22, 2014 – After being on the run for months, Yoo Byung-Eun, the billionaire owner of the Sewol, was found dead. Yoo went under the radar immediately after the ill-fated ferry met its end.
- November 11, 2014 – The South Korean government officially concludes the search for the Sewol’s victims. Nine passengers remain unaccounted for.
- August 4, 2015 – The South Korean government irons out a $73 million deal with Shanghai Salvage Co. a state-run Chinese firm, to raise the ill-fated vessel.
- November 12, 2015 – the South Korean Supreme Court sentences Lee Jun-Seok, the captain of the ill-fated ferry, to life imprisonment. A total of fourteen other crew members receives jail time as well, from 18 months to 12 years.
- March 22, 2017 – After numerous hours of delicate operations, salvage workers begin to raise the Sewol from its watery grave.
- March 23, 2017 – The Sewol, after more than 1,000 days underwater, breaches the surface for the first time. The operation to fully recover the vessel continues.
[Featured Image by South Korean Maritime Ministry/Getty Images]