Leaders Meet Fury on Ferry Disaster Anniversary

Angry S. Korea families unmoved by pledge to raise Sewol
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 16, 2015 4:57 AM CDT
Leaders Meet Fury on Ferry Disaster Anniversary
A mourner weeps as she pays tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a temporary memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, today.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Angry relatives of passengers who drowned in a ferry sinking snubbed South Korea's president on the disaster's anniversary today, even as she pledged to salvage the ship. Tears and grief mixed with raw fury as black-clad relatives and their supporters mourned the 304 victims of the ferry Sewol, most of whom were high school students. Earlier in the day, relatives blocked the prime minister from attending a mourning event. They later canceled another ceremony because of what they called government indifference to their plight.

In South Korea, there is frustration among those who see their government as having failed to meaningfully improve safety standards and hold high-level officials accountable for a disaster blamed in part on incompetence and corruption. Hours before a trip abroad, President Park Geun-hye visited a small port near the site of the sinking to offer her condolences to the bereaved relatives. Most, however, refused to meet her, in protest of the government's handling of the sinking, and had already left the port. Park gave a speech anyway, announcing ship salvaging plans for the first time. She provided few details, however, saying only the salvage operation would happen "as soon as possible." (After the disaster, Park disbanded the country's coast guard.)

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