Ferry tragedy: S Korea in grief-stricken limbo

2014-04-18 12:03
Coast guard members search for passengers near a South Korean ferry that capsized on its way to Jeju island from Incheon. (AFP)

Coast guard members search for passengers near a South Korean ferry that capsized on its way to Jeju island from Incheon. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Seoul - Stunned by a ferry disaster involving hundreds of missing schoolchildren, South Korea has gone into shocked limbo with political campaigns suspended, TV shows and concerts cancelled and vigils held to register grief at the unfolding tragedy.

The 6 825-ton ferry carrying 475 people, mostly high school students on a school trip, sank off the country's southwest on Wednesday.

Nearly 30 bodies have been recovered and more than 260 people are still missing with search efforts making little progress.

As images of victims and distraught families fuelled the nationwide mood of despair, major TV stations stopped airing dozens of prime-time soap operas and popular entertainment shows - especially any involving music and dance.

They were replaced with special news coverage of the accident or documentaries.

"This is no time for laughter or joy. We plan to mourn the victims in as sombre a mood as possible," Han Kyung-Chun, a producer at KBS TV station, told the Daily Sports newspaper.

The country's two main parties imposed a temporary ban on political campaigning related to critical local elections in June.

Companies cancelled social business events, while provincial governments indefinitely suspended planned festivals, concerts and firework shows.

Deepest regret and grief

Dozens of K-pop stars and actors postponed the scheduled release of new albums or cancelled concerts and promotional events.

SM Entertainment - the country's top music agency - suspended the planned release next week of the new album by its top boyband, EXO, indefinitely.

"The decision was made to mourn the victims and to pray for the missing to return safely," the company said in a statement.

The country's three beer brewers - Lotte, Oriental Brewery and Hite Jinro - pulled their party-oriented TV commercials.

Professional baseball and soccer teams kept their cheerleaders off the pitch, and toned down the amplified music used to pump up the crowds.

South Korea's largest Buddhist order launched on Thursday a nationwide prayer meeting at its 2 500 temples for the safe return of the missing.

"We express our deepest regret and grief over the tragic incident," the Jogye Order that claims 10 million followers among South Korea's 50 million population said in a statement.

Candle-lit vigils

Of the 475 people on board the ferry when it capsized, 352 were high school students from Ansan city, which lies just south of Seoul and had been in a state of collective mourning since the disaster struck.

Hundreds of students and parents held a tearful vigil in the school Thursday night, holding out paper messages like "Don't lose hope" and "I miss your smile" - illuminated by the smartphones they held up to the sky.

Other candle-lit vigils by civic groups are planned in several cities including the capital Seoul.

The ferry tragedy has rocked the foundations of Asia's fourth-largest economy, where modernisation was thought to have consigned such large-scale disasters to history.

With the exception of a subway station fire in 2003 that claimed 192 lives, there have been no major disasters for nearly two decades.

A Seoul department store collapsed in 1995, killing more than 500 people, while nearly 300 people died when a ferry capsized off the west coast in 1993.

Seoul's online community was flooded with hundreds of thousands of messages of anger and despair, with many voicing frustration with the speed and effectiveness of the rescue effort.

"What's the point of having the world's fastest Internet, coolest smartphones and the best shipbuilding industry when you can't pull that ship out of water and save our kids?" one user wrote on the popular Internet portal Naver.com.

"I thought our country was more developed than countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh, but maybe I was wrong," posted another.
Read more on:    south korea

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.