Sunday, April 27, 2014

No Running Man because of Sewol Incident

Last week on 20th April 2014, Running Man cancelled their broadcast to give way for mourning the tragic incident regarding the sinking of MV Sewol, a passenger ferry enroute to Jeju Island from Incheon. Not only that, they also cancel their filming on the 21st and 22nd April. One of the production director, Jo Hyo-jin, said that it is impossible for them to do the filming due to the tragic incident. In a way, it was also to gives way to the production casts and crew members to mourn as well. Being a comedic variety, they can't exactly laugh and joking around when the whole nation is grieving. In fact, it wasn't just Running Man, but other music and entertainment show were also cancelled during that time by all 3 of the major broadcast channels. Instead, SBS, KBS, and MBC runs real-time news regarding the Sewol rescue operations to replace all those cancelled shows.

Now lets go back to the Sewol Incident. MV Sewol was a passenger ferry owned by Cheonghaejin Marine Company. On 16th April, the ferry was capsized and sunk along with its passengers. At that time, Sewol were carrying about 476 people, mostly secondary school students from Danwon High School. That is right, by mostly, I meant 325 students with 14 escorting teachers were on board. The students and teachers were on their way for a field-trip in Jeju island.

Capsized MV Sewol.
So from there you can see why the whole nation of South Korea are grieving, prompting most of the entertainment shows to be removed from the major broadcasts. The incident involves a lot of kids. In one newspaper, it was reported that in a blink of an eye, Danwon High School lost about 10% of its students and a dozen of its teachers. Such catastrophic losses were made even worse when it was later reported that the accident happened in a calm day where the water area are free of rocks and reefs. Although there were contradicting report saying during that time it was foggy and the ship might had hit a reef, causing the capsizing. I don't know which one is true, but the matters are currently under investigation, and it appeared even the captain of the ship didn't believe it was because of a collision with a reef. But then again, there were many speculations and theories regarding on what actually the cause.

Time will tell, but lets get to the important part. The important thing is that, how many survived? Out of about 476 people on board, about 174 people manage to made it out from the stricken ship. 75 from 325 students were accounted for along with only 3 teachers out of 14 of them manage to get out. 22 of the 29 ship crews also survived, including the captain.

The number of survivors might vary because the rescuers believed that there may be others still in the ship with a trapped air bubble. But, could an air supply from air bubble really last that long? So the situation was getting grimmer and grimmer by the day. The longer that the rescue operation took place, the thinner the chance that anyone left trapped inside that ship could survive.

With the staggering amount of victims involved, it bring us to the question of why weren't there more survivors? There were no storms, it wasn't a dangerous shark-infested water, the water might be cold but then again the ship did managed to send distress calls meaning there was no communication problems and help was on the way. How could the majority of the victims trapped inside the ship? Didn't they know the ship was sinking?

The news reported that apparently the whole thing smelled of gross misconduct and negligence. There were several complaints from the survivors, such as no announcement were made to evacuate the ship, causing only a handful of the victims managed to survive. In fact, it was established that the captain instead asked the passengers to stay in their rooms after making the distress call. One of the crew allegedly claim that the captain made the announcement on the evacuation order only half and hour later after the distress call was made. Further investigations show that one of the passenger, a teenager named Choi Duk-ha, was actually the first person who made the first distress call to the emergency services channel, asking help from the operator. The ship's crew only made the call 3 minutes after the kid. Even sadder? The kid didn't make it.

Not only that, from the three teacher that survives the incident, one of them committed suicide because he couldn't bear the fact that he survived, when hundreds of his students still presumed missing or dead.

Currently, 11 of the the 22 crews that survived were detained and now under investigation. including the captain. The company that operate the ferry was also raided by the authorities. It was believed that several maritime laws were broken and possible crimes against humanity itself was committed. Why would I said that? The captain, Lee Joon-seok, was allegedly being the first person that got on the rescue boat. Not to mention he stand by his decision for making the passengers to stay inside of their rooms when the ship was slowly sinking. He reasoned that it was better for the passengers to wait for the rescue boats to come and get them, and also the water was very cold which he stated, could be dangerous to the passengers and might complicate things.

Wait, shouldn't he gathered all of the passengers in one place and prepare for evacuation? In short, he technically condemn all of those passengers to a slow death, where they would be trapped in capsized ship and died either by drowning in the water or carbon monoxide poisoning.  
Three of the ship's crew, the captain was in the middle.
Not just any passengers, most of them were kids. According to one of the captain's interview, he claimed that he didn't steer the ship at the time. In fact, he felt that it was a good day to let an inexperience 25-year old female third mate officer that was steering a ferry for the time in her life, even though that he claimed at that time it was foggy and also the female officer were unfamiliar with the area, the captain didn't even supervised her and went to his own cabin.

The captain also claimed that his third mate might have made a sharp turn that caused the ship to shift its balance and starting to listing. He said when he realized what was going on, the ship was already listed too much and he failed to right back the ship. Technically and legally, it wasn't wrong for the captain to appoint his third mate to steer the ship. He probably wanted to let his crew to gain some experience. What is wrong actually, is that the captain and his crews completely abandoned the people, that were supposed to be their responsibility. Failure to issue an evacuation order when you yourself were standing ready to bail is so not captain-ly.

Park Ji-young
What it even more shameful was that all of the marine crews of the ship survived. The captain being the first. Mind you, most of the other victims were kids. While all the surviving marine crews were under fire by angry parents and other survivors, other non-marine crews were praised for helping the passengers to evacuate the ship.

Park Ji-young, a 22-year old female cafeteria worker helped a lot of other survivors to escape from the sinking ship, even when the water was rising above her knees. She helped other passengers to escape. Some of the survivors mentioned where she would help close the doors, so that the passengers could cross the gaps when the ship listed too much and made the floor to be the wall, while the wall became the floor. She was even standing near the exit but she didn't escape herself. Instead, she stayed there, calming the kids and handing the life jackets. According to the news, one of the survivors reported that some of her last words was, "After saving you, I will get out. The crew goes out last.". She even pushed some of the shocked passengers toward the exit even when the water level was risen up to her chest. It was also reported that she could be responsible for rescuing almost a third of the total initial survivors.

But her heroic story didn't end like one of the fairy tales with happy ending. Tragically, she went down along with the ship. Her body was among the first to be recovered from the sea. There were also other crew members that were bravely tried to save the passengers. Kim Ki-woong, 28-years old, and his fiancee, Jeong Hyun-seon, 27-years old, went back to the cabins to save other passengers. But they never came back.

Prime Minister of South Korea.
The whole Sewol incident escalates as the investigation went further. Numerous questions raised and many more theories regarding on how it happened were speculated. From a collision with a rock, sharp turn made by the ship's crew, to ship's renovations that doesn't comply with safety requirements, and all the way to the overloaded cargo carried by the ferry. Not only the captain and the ship's marine crews were apprehended, but the ship's operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co., was also under investigation. Even the officials of Chonghaejin Marine Co. are banned from leaving the country while the prosecutors investigated the disaster. Bit by bit, dirty dark little secrets from Chonghaejin Marine Co. started to resurface. Story has it the the owner of Chonghaejin Marine Co., Yoo Byung-eun, had his home raided by the prosecutors. Chonghaejin Marine Co. and its affiliates that includes the owner's family, are now also under probes for suspected illegal foreign exchange trading and other illegal activities in purchasing overseas assets.

Thrown water bottles.
In recent news, the Prime Minister of South Korea, Jung Hong-won had announced his resignation to take full responsibility regarding on the incident. The victims' relatives criticized the government's effort on the rescue operation, and claimed that the whole operation have been going too slow.  The prime minister was heckled by the victims' relatives when he visited the shelters on an island nearby the sinking site.

He was booed and someone thrown a water bottle to him while he visited the grieving parents the day after the Sewol incident. The water bottle hits one of his bodyguards, but the message was clear. The public mood were not good, and obviously the people are pointing fingers toward corruption. Corruption is never good, it never ends well. The prime minister was recorded saying, "There are too many irregularities and malpractices in parts of society that have been with us too long and I hope those are corrected so that accidents like this will not happen again." when he addressed the grieving victims' relative, to which the crowd responded badly.

I will not pretend that I know about the South Korean's situation right now or even before. In fact, when I read that Running Man, Infinity Challenge, and many more South Korean entertainment shows were to be cancelled, it must have been a very huge incident. Turns out it was really bad. Hundreds of students gone just like that. From what I've read in the news, it seems like there are some unseen pent-up anger that had been boiling up deep beneath those people. To the point that the South Korean prime minister himself to announce his resignation, there must be more to this issue.

Whatever it is, I hope for only the best to all of those that were afflicted by the Sewol's disaster.


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