Heroism, Suicide after the Sewol Ferry Accident

On Wednesday, April 16, the South Korean ferry Sewol sank en route to Jeju Island with a few hundred high school students and teachers on board. In the aftermath, the vice principal of the high school has committed suicide and the captain and two crew members have been arrested on charges of deserting the passengers and failing to help them evacuate the ship. Netizens reacted with outrage and sadness to this news and the heroic acts of passengers aboard the ship.


Article from Asia Economy:

Rescue team enters Sewol ferry and collects three bodies

According to the emergency headquarters for the Sewol ferry accident, at 11:48 p.m. on April 19th, the civilian-government-military joint rescue team was able to enter the ship after breaking windows and collected three bodies.

BY 12:10 A.M. on the 20th, two of the bodies were identified as male and the other is still being identified. At 5:50 a.m. on the 19th, a civilian diver found bodies after entering through windows on the 4th floor. The bodies were all wearing life jackets.

The rescue team let civilian divers attempt to break the windows all day and finally succeeded in collecting the bodies. It was the first time for the rescue team to enter the ship since the 16th when the accident happened. The search and rescue operations are expected to increase in speed. As of now, among the 476 passengers, 36 are reported to have died with 266 missing. 174 passengers were rescued.

The rescue team continues night operations by the light of 880 rounds of flares. Nine squid fishing boats were also deployed to provide light. However, they have difficulties due to the high current speed and bad weather. They have not been able to find any signs of survivors.

Comments from Naver:


For the exhausted parents and family…..please collect everyone’s body at least… Please so they can rest in warmth instead of the cold water…


I truly hope there are no missing bodies. I still wish there were survivors in the ship, but if that’s impossible, please help the bodies go back to their family. Thank you, rescue team.


Cold, painful and scary memories…I hope they can lay them down and rest in peace. I pray for their souls.


I sincerely hope there is at least one survivor….


Is this the reality…


I’m a diving expert. I couldn’t apply for the rescue team because my wife is pregnant. I write this comment because some people don’t seem to understand what current speed 8 kn means. If the speed is 3 kn, diving is prohibited. At current speed 3 kn, your goggles can be taken off or you can be swept away for 3~5 meters as soon as you enter the water. Diving at current speed 8 kn for the rescue operation means risking their life. You can be instantly swept away 50 meters. It’s completely different from scuba diving that you can do on your honeymoon trip. Please do not bash the divers when they deserve our respect…I hope for a miracle.


They should definitely give psychological counseling to the divers.


The divers are human, too. It must be so scary when they find dead bodies. After the operation, they should give psychological counseling to the divers.


I would panic if a dead body suddenly pops up when I can’t even see more than 20 cm ahead of me.


Trapped in the ship for tens of hours…. Kids must have hoped to survive relying on nearby friends… When you were left alone as your friends die one by one, how scary it must have been…. How scary it must have been facing death that I haven’t even thought about… While losing consciousness, how much they must have missed their mom, dad and beloved people…..

Article from News1:

Sewol Ferry Captain and Two Crew Members Arrested

On April 19, Captain Lee (68), third officer Park (25) and helmsman Cho (55) were arrested following the ferry accident that resulted in the death of passengers.

The judge of the Mokpo branch of Gwangju’s District court, Ryu Bong-geun, who interrogated captain Lee and the other crew members, issued an arrest warrant for the three men at 2:00 a.m on the 19th. He listed suspected destruction of evidence and attempted flight.

On the afternoon of the 18th, the prosecution-police joint investigation team requested an arrest warrant for the crew members for violating the Act on the Aggravated Punishment, Etc. of Specific Crimes (aggravated punishment for a captain or crew members who abandon their ship).


According to the investigation team, Lee and his crew members were charged with failing to reduce the ship’s speed while veering and failing to take the appropriate measures to evacuate passengers. The aggravated punishment act prosecutors would like to apply to Lee’s case was enacted in July of last year. This is the first time it has been applied. The penalty for violating the act ranges from 5 years to life in prison.


Comments from Naver:


Maybe it’s not just Sewol but the entire Korean society that is sinking. I cannot hide my fear that we are probably living on, believing the empty words from the bigwigs that “we should calmly remain in our seats”.


“Stay still. Don’t move.” The kids must have trusted him and waited to be rescued. Even when he hid his identity as captain and escaped before his passengers.


In January, 2012, the cruise ship Costa Concordia with 4,229 [3,229] passengers from Italy hit a rock and was stranded. 32 passengers died in the accident. The Italian prosecutors charged Captain Schettino, who escaped before his passengers, with manslaughter and dereliction of duty. They demanded a jail sentence of 2,679 years. How many years would he have to serve in Korea???




Why did they do that….really…


When the ship was only partially submerged, they should’ve breached the ship and saved the passengers by helicopter. The U.S. Navy sent helicopters immediately for the rescue operation. [The Korean military explained that the American helicopters were put on standby due to difficulties in coordinating them with Korean aircraft in the area.] Some newspapers prematurely reported that everyone was saved while the Korean headquarters wasted three hours and didn’t send helicopters to the rescue when they should’ve. After the ship sank, they were trying to deploy divers who couldn’t do much. They could’ve saved more people if they had made better use of the helicopters. Look at the broadcasts around 12 o’clock when there was a false report that everyone was saved. The area didn’t seem busy. It almost looked like helicopters and boats were pulling out. Please! Punish the head of the Korea Coast Guard who made the wrong decision in the initial stage of the accident along with the captain.


He killed 300 people who would’ve become the pride of the country. He wounded the hearts of their parents for life. He ruined the third mate’s career. He ruined his company. He ruined an entire school. He killed the vice principal. He inflicted psychological wounds on the survivors. His sins are endless, but he can only get 5 years? Remake the laws all over again.


He should think himself fortunate that he is going to jail. It will be safer there. If he reenters society, it will be hell for him.


He was even drying off the money in his wallet after abandoning his passengers…. Really…I’m speechless. The real devil is right there.


I have no desire to defend her at all, but the third mate met the wrong captain who ruined her life.

Article from Yonhap News:

“I take full responsibility”…Danwon High School Vice Principal Commits Suicide

Vice Principal Kang (52) of Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi-do, was found dead after the deadly ferry accident.


A hand-written suicide note was discovered in his wallet. The note says, “It is too hard for me to live when 200 of my students are missing. Please place all the responsibility on me. I carried forward the trip plan. Burn my body and sprinkle the ashes in the area where the ship sank. Maybe I will become a teacher again in the afterlife for the missing students.”

Other teachers have said the Vice Principal was blaming himself for leaving his students behind as he was rescued.


Comments from Naver:


Why did the teachers have to kneel down in front of the students’ parents and apologize as if they committed high treason…yeah? What did they do wrong… Two teachers died and 11 teachers are still missing…. Why are the student’s parents complaining to the wrong side….?


The government should’ve separated the teachers from the students’ parents. Why did they put them in the same place, which puts pressure on the teachers???? Also, you need to keep an eye on the people who have been rescued. You don’t know what they will do out of guilt. The authorities should pay attention to them. Also, netizens should not write comments critical of any of the rescued people except for the captain, which can trouble the people who have been rescued as well as their family. Please support them. I feel sorry and pray for the victims.


The captain who put 300 people to death survived while innocent people died left and right. Stewardess Park Ji-young remained in the ship until the last moment to save one more kid before she died. The captain who should’ve hung himself was drying off his money after he got rescued. It makes my blood boil…


Sadly, a good vice principal passed away. They found the body of a teacher who had tried until the end to help students escape. There are teachers who led students to safety but were not able to escape themselves and are still missing, following the announcement. If there is someone to blame, it is the captain. It seems wrong to place any blame on the teachers.


So sad… A person who is alive should live on.. Please rest in peace.


“Maybe I will become a teacher again in the afterlife.” This part was so touching…


He must have felt a lot of guilt. He went ahead with the trip. The guilt that he felt because he survived while so many of his students were in danger. He must have felt so much pain seeing the crying parents. He might have blamed everything on himself and could not endure it. It’s heartbreaking to imagine what he might have felt. Rest in peace. I hope he can lay down the burden and rest in peace.


This probably would not have happened if someone had comforted the vice principal when he was painfully apologizing. Nobody was accepting his apologies. There was nowhere for him to turn… We’ve lost another person just like that… Isn’t this also a man-made disaster.. So painful……..


It’s like the parents killed him. What did he do wrong. I understand the parents’ pain but a person who is alive should live on. Do not blame anyone else than the captain. Accidental deaths happen everyday everywhere. They have received enough sympathy.


One of my friends said Kang was the vice principal when he was going to high school. He said Kang was a good person. It’s so sad..


koreaBANG has compiled accounts of heroism amid the accident that are known so far.


Park Ji-young (22, stewardess) remained in the ferry until the end to help passengers evacuate. When she found there were not enough life jackets on the third floor, she went to the fourth floor to get more. She did not put on a life jacket. Her dead body was found.


Yang Dae-hong (46, cashier) also stayed on the ship to save passengers and went missing. His last text message to his wife is as follows. “The ship has tilted too much. There is money saved in the Suhyup bank account. Use that for our older kid’s college tuition. I have to go save the kids. I can’t talk anymore. Bye.”


High school student Jeong Cha-woong (17) lost his life helping his friends evacuate. He gave his own life jacket to his friend and tried to save other friends in the water. His dead body was found.


Kwon Hyeok-gyu (6) was with his 5-year-old sister Kwon Ji-yeon, away from their parents. He put his own life jacket on his sister and went to find his parents, but did not come back. High school student Park Ho-jin (17) found Ji-yeon crying and took her out of the ship. Her parents and brother are missing.


Park’s English teacher Nam Yun-cheol (35) stayed on the ship until the end trying to help his students evacuate. He gave his own life jacket to one of his students. His dead body was found.


Passenger Kim Hong-gyeong (59) and other passengers made a 10-meter-long rope with curtains attached to a fire hose and used it to save about 20 students downstairs. He survived.


High school student Cho Dae-seob (17) ran around distributing life jackets to his fellow students and helped a lost child put on a life jacket. When the water was pouring in, he helped female students escape first. He survived.

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