“Stay Still”: Sewol, a Tale of Fatal Censorship and Paternalism

Please cite as: Kyung Sin Park, ““Stay Still”: Sewol, a Tale of Fatal Censorship and Paternalism”, in Challenges of Modernization and Governance in South Korea: The Sinking of the Sewol and Its Causes, 1 January 2017, pp. 121-142, Palgrave Macmillan.


K.S. Park

The Sewol accident was a social catastrophe, the result of a catastrophic failure to respond to a known crisis. The Sewol submerged slowly for a span of 2 hours within a stone’s throw of a Coast Guard ship in a relatively warm and calm ocean near the coast, and it then sank further down with 300 or so then survivors locked inside the ship, again slowly over a span of 3 days while its sinking was being televised real-time to the whole country.  The Sewol disaster was no ordinary mass disaster that could be attributed to a lapse of judgment or two; it was a tragic march toward certain death over a sustained period of time during which several clear opportunities for restoring normalcy went ignored one by one.  The end result could have been well expected from a series of pre-meditated actions.  One of the most popular yet poignant slogans surrounding the Sewol disaster was: “The Capital Sank the Ship, and the State Caused the Massacre.”[1]  One can say that the failure to respond to the known crisis was more decisive in turning the accident into a mass disaster than negligent lapses of judgment that initially caused the crisis.

Mass accidents can happen anywhere anytime.  In democracies, people are allowed to make a wider range of choices and therefore assume greater risks.  No matter how distributively efficient or morally competent the government is, another ferry may sink again.  A mass accident like the sinking of the Sewol can happen in a welfare state[2] as well as a republic newly freed from a socialist state.[3]  What separates the Sewol, a social catastrophe, from other mass accidents is whether proper rescue efforts were implemented by the authorities once an accident has happened.

We can make this enquiry further upstream in causation. Corruption and the resulting anomalies, and mad drives to profit may lead to accidents. Greed, and government-business intermingling to a lesser extent, is part and parcel of the capitalistic market economy.  What separates the Sewol from other mass accidents is whether people were allowed to raise the proverbial ‘red flag’ when they see a safety-threatening corruption or profiteering.

This chapter reports in Part I (Fatal Censorship) on the legal environment under which both the Sewol ferry accident and the disaster became an inevitable outcome, reports in Part II (Fatal Rescue) on the rescue efforts punctuated by the fatal warning of “Stay Still”, and finds that, on both of the above questions, the answer has been a resounding “No.”

The rest of the chapter attempts at explaining the causes of what has been described in Part I and Part II. Of course, the most mindboggling question is why the captain and crew gave only a ‘stay still’ order and never followed up with an ‘abandon the ship’ order even as the ship tilted into a fatal angle while the passengers consisting of mostly high school students obediently waited, and likewise why the Coast Guards, having arrived early at the scene, failed to intervene in the urgent ship-abandoning process during a series of opportune moments.  This essay reexamines the causes of other disasters of similar social significance in the past and attempts at conjectures on the relationship between paternalism and mass disasters in Part III (Fatal Paternalism).

I. Censorship  

  1. Defamation Law and the Cause of Sewol

In January 2014, a former employee of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the Sewol, whose employment was abruptly terminated with unpaid wages, logged on www.epeople.go.kr to report to the President’s Office the repeated overloading on the ferry as well as his back-wage claims.[4] Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s Office, which in fact handled the complaints logged at the site, resolved his wage claims but did not take any action on the overloading.  The newly opened site received a large number of requests for help and, the Prime Minister’s Office focused on what seemed the more personally dire problems for the complainant.

One cannot help but wonder why the former employee could not do what many former employees do in other countries : publicly demand the back wages and also criticize the employer about the overloading, which would have gotten the public attention sufficiently portentous for resolving his wage claims quickly.  “Normalization of deviance” is indeed rampant as the country’s new legal and regulatory system are still experimenting with various standards later found to be impractical and largely ignored both by the regulators and their subjects.[5]  However, when it comes to unpaid wages, public resentment is universal and he had a good chance of bringing the accompanying problem of overloading into public scrutiny thereby averting the disaster.

However, in Korea, everyone reporting truthfully on another’s crime risks becoming a criminal himself or herself. First, it is a crime, punishable under the “truth defamation” law or Article 307 Para.1 of the Korean criminal code, to tell the truth if doing so damages the reputation of a person or an entity. And the crime of insult, criminal defamation and “truth defamation” laws are vigorously enforced by the authorities, despite the warnings of international human rights bodies, including of the UN Human Rights Committee that condemned penalizing an act of making truthful statements as well as the court’s use of incarceration as a punishment for defamation in General Comment No. 34 issued in 2011[6] and specifically recommended in 2015 that Korea’s law be amended.[7] Criminal prosecution continues to be a prevailing remedy for defamation or insult.  136 people were incarcerated for defamation over a 55 months period between January 1, 2005 through July 2009 in Korea,[8] while in comparison only 146 people were incarcerated for defamation in a 20 months period between January 1, 2005 and August 2007 in all other countries combined.[9]  Korea accounted for about 30% of the worlds’ defamation incarcerations in that 20 month period.

The trend continues to date and in greater intensity. In 2013, 11,574 people were indicted for defamation or insult (2,162 for defamation and 9,412 for insult, and excluding 1,233 indicted for online defamation)[10], out of which 111 were incarcerated while the remaining defendants were fined.[11]  This is a two-fold increase from 2010 when the total of 6,963 people (2,193 for defamation and 4,860 for insult) were indicted, out of which 11 incarcerations for insult and 43 incarcerations for defamation resulted.

As UN Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Expression and Opinion Frank La Rue pointed out in his report on Korea, many of these criminal prosecutions are the very cases where private persons are subjected to criminal prosecution for defamation in defense of public officials’ reputation.[12]  We are certain of the political nature of these prosecutions because most cases result in withdrawal, dismissal, or not-guilty judgments, leaving only indelible chilling effects on the populace.[13]

Secondly, such an abuse is facilitated by the fact that that criminal prosecution applies also to truthful statements (or statements not proven to be false) — even in absence of privacy concerns, in contrast to the Special Rapporteur’s[14] and UN Human Rights Committee’s[15] specific mandates to exempt such statements. The defendant can only escape liability by proving that the statements were made solely for public interest, a burden of proof not so easy to sustain. For instance, the Supreme court refused the public interest defense of a worker making a truthful statement about his employer’s non-payment of wages for the court found that the worker’s such statement also had an intention to harm the employer’s reputation, i.e. the public interest was not the sole motif.[16] The same reasoning was applied to a drug wholesaler who truthfully complained about the pharmaceutical companies’ unfair trade practices: according to the Court, the wholesaler had an obvious interest in protecting his business from the companies’ wrongdoing.[17]  The practical effect of this law is that an individual who has encountered corruptions in the government or other powerful entities could not freely share her knowledge with others for fear that she may not be able to sustain the burden of proving that ‘public interest’ was the speaker’s ‘sole motif’.


Some countries like Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Swiss[18] do retain a truth defamation law which requires public interest as an element of defense, but they apply it to protect privacy, not to protect a malefactor’s reputation.  For instance, they may invoke the law to regulate the visual disclosure by the media of the physical injury of an individual unconscious from an accident, which is protected by privacy since he or she obviously could not have consented to such disclosure.[19] In Korea, the truth defamation law is actually used by a malefactor to prevent people from talking about his or her malfeasance.  For instance, a member of an elders association was found guilty of truth defamation for alerting, other members about the violence committed by the association’s officer against other members with no intention of keeping it private.[20] In 2013, prosecutors charged and the lower court found a prominent poet guilty of “candidate slandering” for alleging that the then Presidential candidate Park Gun-Hye had in her possession one of the calligraphies of Ahn Joong-Geun that had been reported as a stolen national treasure, an independence fighter who assassinated Ito Hirobumi, the Japanese official that spearheaded the annexation of Chosun[21], where his allegations were not proven false.  Although the appeals court reversed the judgment later for the reason that the poet had public interest in mind,[22] this case demonstrated the legal risk that one has to face when he reveals an inconvenient truth about a powerful person.


  1. Broadcasting Regulation and the Rescue Efforts

Censorship affected the rescue efforts during the accident as well.  The media collectively failed in its basic function during the Sewol crisis.  Its critical role is poignantly spelled out in the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR)’s Guide for Journalists Covering Disaster Risk Reduction:[23]

The media can influence political decisions, change public attitudes and, of course, save lives…a news organization plays four key roles during a crisis. It’s a vital information resource, telling what is happening where, who is affected, how things are changing, and why. It’s a communication lifeline, saving lives by relaying critical information to and from affected parties. It’s an early warning beacon, transmitting timely, reliable information that prevents harm. . . .[24]


The phrases above apply most poignantly to Sewol.  There was a curious interview broadcast on television a few days after the tragedy.  The father of a 16 year old Sewol victim tearfully complained:


If the media gave a little more truthful and little more critical reports from the time the ship sank, I believe that more children would have come back alive, and that belief has never been shaken. . . . the broadcasting closed their eyes during the most important two or three days.  I believe this is the most important problem.[25]


What he referred to was the Korean media’s tendency to deliver the announcement of the rescue authorities without double-checking and their failure to critically examine the rescue efforts. His complaint was about a month later echoed by rank-and-file reporters of MBC who issued a public apology “for not observing the basic principles of reporting.” Their public apology frankly acknowledged their failure: [26]

‘Repeating after’ government’s untrustworthy reports, we followed the habit of blurting out such phrases as ‘700 rescue personnel’, ‘239 rescue boats’, ‘largest rescue operation’, incongruent with the actual search situation [on the day of the accident]. . . adding to the confusion in the urgent rescue situation.

As later confirmed, the first attempt to enter the sinking ship was made as late as 4 pm that day and the second one only the morning of the following day, making those reports distortion by wide margins. KBS reporters issued their own apology in a series of ten (10) letters which contained their scathing self-evaluations of the Sewol coverage. [27]


Actually, the media failure began as early as within a few hours of the sinking that had begun around 9 am.[28] Kim Hong-Kyung, a hero who saved thirty or so students by pulling them up the tilted floors of the lower deck using first the makeshift ropes patched from the curtains and later the fire hose, before being rescued himself around 11 am, was interviewed by MBC and KBS around 4 pm when the rescue efforts were still going on.  What he said during the interview was unbelievable:[29]


While I was pulling up the kids using the curtains, the rescue team has not arrived.  After they arrived, I pulled up about fifteen more kids for about 30 minutes. . .The rescue team climbed on the outer fence of the ship but did not come down into the ship.  I was curious to know why they were not coming in.  They were just watching me from above pulling up the kids and repeatedly disappeared and reappeared. . . That is why I took the photos and videos.  To tell someone.


What was more unbelievable was that these comments were cut from the interview clips broadcast later by MBC and KBS.[30]  These media organizations faithfully relayed all the announcements of the rescue authorities but did not report on the crucial eye witness whose words could have raised questions about the rescue operation and possibly helped change it so that more lives could be saved on the crucial first day.  Kim himself wondered, “The reporters just took all the pictures and videos but my interview on the Coast Guards’ failure to assist was removed from the broadcast.”

Now, what was even more unbelievable was that when a civil society organization filed a formal complaint against the MBC and KBS with the Korea Communication Standards Commission (KCSC), the country’s broadcasting content regulation authority, the KCSC decided that there was no problem with the reporting.[31]

This last incredible turn of events requires us to look at the broadcasting regulation in Korea. The KCSC is the administrative censorship body conducting the so-called “fairness review” of the broadcasting content in Korea. Like the now defunct fairness doctrine in the U.S., its regulation requires that the broadcasters “strive to provide an equal opportunity to other groups having different opinions, and also endeavor to maintain a balance in organizing the broadcast programs with respect to each political stakeholder.”[32]  Because the fairness standard was vulnerable to political abuses by the government in control of the censorship body, and also alternative media such as cable grew in importance, the fairness review by an administrative body has disappeared in the U.S., and has been non-existent as administrative censorship in Japan, Germany, and UK’s BBC. Fairness review does remain in Korea, France, and UK’s non-BBC channels.[33]

In Korea, fairness review is actively implemented but it has caused many controversies when the KCSC disciplined broadcasters for not being fair to the legislations, personnel decisions, and foreign trade policies initiated by the incumbent government.  Fairness review, used to discipline a critical media content for not being fair to the government that in turn controls the KCSC, eviscerates the fairness of the fairness review. In order to avoid a conflict of interest, the reviewing body should not discipline broadcasting content for being too critical of government-sponsored projects, laws, and ideas.

In reality, the KCSC’s fairness review has been overwhelmingly concerned with the broadcasters’ treatment of government views and programs.  As shown in Table 1, almost all cases upon which the KCSC conducted its fairness review concerns the media coverage of contentious government policies such as American beef import, the appointment of publicly owned broadcasting executives, newspaper-broadcasting cross-ownership, major river-bed renovation project, investigation into the sinking of ROKS Corvette Cheonan, police intervention in labor disputes at Yusung Industries, reinstatement of teachers fired for resisting the nation-wide academic performance exam, arrest of former opposition MP Jung Bong-Ju for defaming the then President Lee Myung-Bak.  The only three exceptions also concern the ruling party’s historical views on Baik Sun-Yup, Jung Yulsung, and Rhee Syngman.


Date of decision Contents reviewed Results
2008.7.16 MBC PD Notes on the Korean government’s trade polices on American beef and the risk of mad cow disease Apology to the viewers[34]
2008.11.26 YTN News featuring the anchors wearing black suits in a union-led collective action showing disapproval of the new CEO parachuted down by the President Apology to the viewers
2009.2.18 KBS TV 1, a special coverage of the New Years’ bell tolling ceremony, from which the desk blotted out the voices of people chanting against the government’s new plan to allow the newspaper-broadcasting cross ownership Advisory
2009.3.4 MBC News Desk’s critical coverage of the government’s new plan to allow the newspaper-broadcasting cross ownership Warning
2009.3.4 MBC News Who?’s critical coverage of the government’s new plan to allow the newspaper-broadcasting cross ownership Apology to the viewers
2010.1.27 MBC PD Diary on the government’s river reclamation project Four Big Rivers and its relationship with the shrinking household revitalization budget Advisory
2011.1.5 KBS In Pursuit 60 Minutes on the disputes on the cause of ROKS Cheonan, the ship allegedly torpedoed by the North Korean submarine Warning (cancelled in judicial review on 2014.6.13)
2011.3.10 KBS In Pursuit 60 Minutes on the government’s river reclamation project Four Big Rivers and its relationship with the shrinking household revitalization budget. Advisory
2011.7.7 MBC Radio Economics In Your Hands by Hong Gibin and KBS Radio Park Kyungchul’s Economic Focus, both on the labor dispute at Yoosung Enterprises into which the government controversially dispatched a large army of the police to crack down on a strike Advisory
2011.7.7 MBC Radio Park Hejin’s Encounters on the teachers reinstated after being terminated for disobeying the Education Ministry’s order to conduct a national standard examination Caution
2011.7.21 KBS TV 1’s documentary War and a Soldier eulogizing on General Park Sun-Yup, a controversial figure who actively participation in the crackdowns on the independence fighters during the Japanese colonial period No issue
2012.2.16 CBS Radio News Jockey Chung Kwan Yong, featuring an interview with Buddhist Priest Myung Jin, who criticized the then President Myung Bak Lee Caution
2012.2.16 SBS Kim So Won’s Radio Observatory, featuring an interview with Kim Yong Min, a pundit known for his scathing views of the then incumbent government Caution
2012.3.8 CBS Radio Kim Mi Hwa’s Everybody, featuring two economists Woo Suk Hoon and Sun Dae In who criticized the government’s beef import policies for their impact on farmers Caution (cancelled in judicial review on 2013.5.14)
2012.3.8 MBC Live This Morning on the incarceration of Chung Bong Joo, the former congressperson found guilty of defamatory electioneering for having questioned President Lee’s role in the so-called BBK financial scandal Suggestion
2012.3.21 CBS Radio Kim Mi Hwa’s Everybody, featuring the Agricultural Minister Suh Yong Kyu No issue
2012.4.5.–>2014.1.9 KBS’s special documentary ‘Musician Chung Yool Sung, Shaking a Continent of 1.3 Billion People First, deferral and then later, caution
2012.7.5 MBC New Desk, which covered and depicted the opposition party congresspeople’s request for a meeting of CEO of MBC as a “trespass” Advisory
2012.9.13 MBC News Desk, which covered one of its prime time anchor being confronted by MBC’s union members for having cooperated with the newly appointed management allegedly subservient to the incumbent government No issue
2002.9.13 KBS News Planning Window ‘Life of a Worker’ Advisory
2013.3.21 MBC Special Interview Mayumi’s Life and Kim Hyun Hee’s Confession, featuring an interview with the self-proclaimed bomber of a Korean Air flight in 1983 No Issue
2013.7.11 Channel A Kim Kwang Hyun’s Objectively Speaking, featuring a controversial interview depicting the May 1980 Kwangju democratization movement as North-originated Advisory
2013.7.25 RTV Hundred Year’s War ‘Two Faces of Syngman Rhee’, ‘Fraser Report – Who Strengthened the Korean Economy’, both episodes presenting the hitherto unknown aspects of the former Presidents Rhee and Park Warning and personnel actions
2013.8.13 MBC Golden Fishery Bed, featuring a personal story of Ahn Chul Soo, the then strong opposition Presidential candidate, which turned out to contain minor inaccuracies Advisory
2013.9.12 KBS Viewers’ Desk, evaluating negatively the soundness of KBS’s coverage of National Intelligence Service’s public opinion manipulation campaign during 2012 Presidential Election Advisory
2013.11.21 KBS Pursuit 60 Minutes, covering the framing-up of Yoo U Sung into a North Korean spy by National Intelligence Service and his acquittal in court Warning  (cancelled in judicial review 2015.10.22)
2013.12.18 TV Chosun Pan, broadcasting a conservative former anchorperson Chung Mi-Hong’s redbaiting comments on Seoul City Mayor Park Won Soon Suggestion (3:2 subcommittee)
2013.12.19 JTBC News 9, covering critically the Prosecutors’ decision to file a party dissolution petition on the United Progressive Party Warning and personnel action
2014.1.5. (소위) TV Chosun Sniper Returns, broadcasting partial attacks on Park Chang Shin, a progressive Catholic priest who has criticized the President Park Advisory
2014.1.23 CBS Kim Hyun Chung’s New Show, featuring an interview with Reverend Park Chang Shin critically commenting on NIS voters’ opinion manipulation scandal and the bombing on Yeonpyungdo Warning (cancelled in judicial review 2015.1.22)
2014.3.20 MBC News Desk, critically covering the court decisions annulling the termination of dissident producers and reporters who resisted nepotistic appointment of CEO of MBC No issue
2014.4.3 JTBC News Cube 6, featuring an interview with Yu U Sung, whose acquittal was finalized in the Supreme Court Warning and personnel action


The review is conducted by a nine-member board, six of whom are appointed by the ruling party and three by the opposition.  The results of the reviews were striking.  Interviews of Buddhist Priest Myungjin and Catholic Father Park Chang-sin were heavily disciplined for using strong language against the President while the programs calling the opposition party members the ultimate epithet in the country, “pro-North Korea”, were lightly treated. Programs presenting views differing from the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutors’ Office, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Agriculture were heavily disciplined, but other programs that simply relayed the government positions verbatim were not disciplined at all.  Even a MBC news that criticized a court judgment cancelling the broadcaster’s own dismissal of dissident employees received ‘no issue’ despite its obvious self-interest in the news.

In this regulatory environment where the broadcasters were given clearly lopsided signals from the regulator KCSC that had the power to influence the renewal of their broadcasting licenses, it was not surprising that MBC and KBS left out the bombshell eye witness Kim Hong-Kyung of the Coast Guards’ fatal inaction during the crucial hours of the disaster.


II. Rescue: Paralysis of Common Sense

“It is buildings which kill (people) in earthquake”, UNISDR’s Twitter account cries.[35]  Structures intended for shelter can be fatal.  The same reversal is also true for the Sewol.  It was the ship built to keep people above water that drowned people in the disaster.  It was the ship’s steel walls that stood between the victims and the free water that would have buoyed them up to the rescuers wearing the life vests in a calm and warm water near the coast.  All the water-proof technology that went into making the ship seaworthy and withstand water pressure now worked against the passengers, some of whom in vain tried to break the devastatingly strong windows.  One may as well say that the Sewol massacre would not have happened if the ship had been made of straws.  In Estonia,[36] most people died due to hypothermia within 2 hours of entering the freezing Scandinavian water, in the aftermath of which the experts around the world tried to design ships into “the best lifeboat(s)” that people will not have to leave in case of emergency.[37]  That was not the case in Sewol: all the passengers had the life-vests on and all they had to do was jump into the water.  There is no single confirmed passenger that jumped into the water who was not saved.

This rather simple solution of jumping off the ship was famously accessible at multiple times.[38]  Firstly, the infamous “Stay Still” order remained effective while the crew were abandoning the ship.  The first distress call was made, not by the crew but by a passenger, a high school student who called 911 on his mobile phone, at 8:52 am when the ship had listed to about 30 degrees.  The Coast Guard boat that responded to the call was rather intercepted by the captain and the crew, and left the ferry without giving the caller the needed ride.  While the ship was listing further after the 911 call, the crew repeatedly issued ‘Stay Still’ orders until 9:39 am at which the last one was issued.  The ship then listed to 53 degree by 9:35 am and further on to 64 degree by 9:54 am.[39] The Kakao Talk messages exchanged among the students show that there were many people who were standing by the ‘Stay Still’ order as late as 10:17 am, at which one student famously wrote “They told us to stay still and no public announcement came out after that.”[40] No ‘Abandon Ship’ order was ever issued while the engine room crew abandoned the ship to climb on a Coast Guard rescue boat at 9:38 am and it was not issued while the captain and control room crew deserted the ship at around 9:48 am.[41] It was as late as 10:15 am that one of the passenger service crew broadcast ‘abandon the ship’, 6 minutes before the ship began rapid sinking rotation.  (The service crewperson himself died after making that announcement)  All this means that there was at least about one hour during which people, cognizant of the danger, could have left the ship to their safety, had the crew not issued the Stay Still order or at least issued an “Abandon Ship” order as soon as possible or at least when the crew themselves were leaving the ship!

The passengers who disobeyed the Stay Still order and jumped into the water were rescued around 9:50 am, after the captain and the entire crew had already left the ship.  The ship that had been listing slowly began to list rapidly at 10:21 am and completely submerged at 10:31 am, leaving only its tail end above water.  Immediately before the final capsizing, about 40 passengers jumped off the ship starting 10:18 am over a few minutes.  This shows that an alert just a few minutes earlier would have given so many people a chance to protect themselves, had the ‘Stay Still’ order not kept them from helping themselves out of the ship.

Second observation regards the mysterious refusal by the Coast Guard to enter the ship either to rescue or alert the passengers.  The first help came as early as 9:23 am when the Coast Guards helicopter arrived at the scene.  None of the rescue crew came into the ship to alert everyone to leave.  The choppers just rescued the people who had climbed up to the top (then the right side) of the ship.  The Coast Guards rescue boat arrived at the scene at 9:38 am to pick up the engine room crew but none of the rescue personnel went inside the ship to alert the passengers to leave.  The Coast Guards ship of 116 tonnage actually landed upon the ferry at 9:48 am to pick up the captain and control room crew but none of the rescue personnel went inside the boat to alert the passengers to leave the ship.  The Coast Guards could see the passengers inside the windows but did not immediately start breaking down the windows.  In the end, for about one hour, none of the Coast Guards attempted to enter the ship to rescue anyone or alert the passengers to leave, as Kim Hong Kyung’s own account above testified. It is only a painful irony that, while the rescue professionals were not entering the ship, at least two high school students who had rose to the deck to jump overboard went back below the deck to rescue their friends.[42]

The third point is about the post-submersion efforts.  The efforts to enter the ship took place only around 6:30 pm, as late as 8.5 hours after the capsizing, and the meaningful entry efforts were made only as late as 8 am of 17th, which became successful only on 18th.[43] As later revealed by the media, the Coast Guards who were in control of the rescue operation turned away not just the volunteer divers but also Navy’s UDT,[44] the country’s best trained underwater rescue team, on the day of the sinking, just to secure the arrival of the rescue and salvage operation company Undine.[45]  Undine arrived as late as the morning of 18th but with inadequate personnel and equipment.[46] The Coast Guards reply that having the ship owner bear the cost of recovering the ship by contracting in the companies like Undine is an ordinary procedure.  This reply was revealing: the Coast Guards busied themselves farming out their role because as soon as the ship went below water, they immediately saw their role as ordinary salvaging not rescuing!

Besides entry into the ship, other common sense steps were not taken.  After the ship submerged 30-40 meters underwater, various efforts to enter the ship were hampered by the currents and low visibility of 20-30 centimeters. In hindsight, there were clear missed opportunities to keep the ship in a better position, location, or shape for further rescue efforts before the ship went down that far.

By 1 am, April 18th, a sea crane of 3,600 ton lifting power arrived, and another one of 8,000 ton lifting power had arrived by 1 am, April 20th.  The Sewol ferry was heavy, i.e., above 10,000 metric tons but the combined lifting capacity of all the sea cranes by April 20 were above 20,000 metric tons.[47] Although using the cranes to pull up the ship might have posed danger to the possible survivors trapped inside, using it to hold the ship in the previous angle and distance would have made rescue operations safer and easier.  And yet these cranes were not used at all while the ferry was sinking. Ironically, only one full year after the sinking, the government is discussing recalling those sea cranes to lift up the Sewol ferry from the bottom of the ocean.[48] In the meantime, the rescue efforts were as a result made devastatingly slow, and soon turned into a salvage operation in a few days.[49]

Life lines that the divers could follow to enter the ship underwater[50] were installed only 3 days after the accident on April 19.[51] Those lines could have been easily installed while the ship was afloat or immediately after the ship began submerging.[52] If the officers at the scene showed reasonable interest in rescuing the passengers, it was easy to think of dropping life lines into the ship for the passengers to use on their way up (Kim Hong Kyung!), and then the lines could have been later used by the divers on the way down into the ship as well. It is unfortunate because a diver even died trying to install an additional lifeline afterwards.[53]


III. Paternalism

This type of paralysis of common sense has landed upon other Korean disaster rescue scenes earlier.  In December 2007, the Samsung Heavy Industries’ sea crane collided with an oil tanker, causing oil spill of the largest size that ever hit the country.[54]  The oil began to pour out at 7:15 am from the tanker anchored near the coast, and many villagers suggested that barges be pulled by the side of the tanker to catch and store the oil leakage.[55]  This suggestion made a great local sense:  Because the affected area was famous for sand extraction, there were sand barges from one up to three thousand tons.  It would have been enough to deploy just several of them in order to contain most of the oil spilled.  Also, there was a more instinctively commonsensical solution:  plug the leaking hole.  These common sense suggestions[56] were either implemented too late or flatly ignored by the Coast Guard experts.[57] The holes were blocked only 48 hours later, during which more than 10,500 tons of oil were spilled.[58] In contrast, Chawle Singh, the tanker captain, immediately took commonsensical measures to minimize the oil spill: he moved oil to non-damaged tanks and ballast and tipped the ship so that the holes would be raised above the surface level of the oil.[59]  If we can appreciate how much efforts went into mopping up one gallon of oil off the sandy shore that the spilled oil later hit[60], it is of utmost regret that these simple remedies were not timely implemented by Korean authorities.

Maybe, the Coast Guards learned the lesson: When another oil spill took place 7 years later in Busan on February 15, 2014, two Coast Guards began immediately the plugging operation on the leaking hole (20 cm * 30 cm) and succeeded within 4 hours.[61]  The oil spill damage was kept to minimal.  Compare:  In the aforesaid oil spill in Taean, although two holes, 1.6m * 20cm and 1.2m *10cm respectively, stopped pouring within 4.5 hours and 8.5 hours of the impact only after draining all the oil above the holes, the third hole 30cm *3cm poured out for 37 hours until it was finally blocked.[62]

A similar lapse of commonsense judgment took place in February 2003 when a subway train at a stop caught fire started by a deranged arsonist and the fire spread to another train stopped in the opposite direction.[63]  As the dark smoke roared through the full length of both trains, most passengers of the first train exited the train to their safety.  However, the driver of the second train, after the effort to move the train to safety proved futile, left the train as ordered by the Headquarter but took the master control key with him while the passengers were waiting for next safety instructions.  Fatally, the trains were built so that, if the master control key was pulled off, all the doors would be immediately locked.  As a result, 142 passengers were locked inside that train alone – there were much smaller number of casualties in the first train – and burnt to death as the flames slowly ate up the whole body of the train.[64] Poignantly, only the passengers in Cart No.4 of the second train were lucky:  one of the passengers happened to be the chief of another train station experienced enough to locate and activate the emergency door switch in the dark.[65] (With the master key off, all the lights were off in the dark underground except the emergency light and the passengers could not find the emergency switch to open the doors from within.) The last safety instruction that the second train’s driver gave immediately before he detrained was ominously:  “Please Stay Still.”[66]

These are not just mass disasters but social catastrophes.  Why do they happen?  It is no doubt facilitated by the lack of a manual, discipline, and investment in safety equipment. But the Daegu Subway Operation Headquarter followed the manual when it ordered the driver to keep the key in his possession all the time, fearing that a runway train operated by wrong hands can literally wreak havoc. The Coast Guards at the Oil Spill also followed the manual when it rejected the simple solutions proposed by the villagers, citing the possibility of explosion.[67] The Coast Guards at Sewol also cited the “manual” for the reason for not entering the ship.[68]   Accident manuals are provided to contain the consequences of an accident.  When the accidents not included in the response manual happen, the only protection from a mass disaster is independent thinking drawing on common sense and survival instinct.

Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller Outliers analyzes 1997 Korea Air Line accident in Guam.  According to him, the cause of the accident was the pilots’ failure to abort the landing when they were alerted to the possibility of a collision.  When the pilot did not abort, the co-pilot should have taken over and aborted the landing himself but he did not do that. Gladwell traces this behavior to a power hierarchy between the pilots. Scholars have developed the Power Distance Index, a measure of how a sense of hierarchy deters people from challenging their superiors, and found a positive correlation between the power distance index among pilots and the number of airplane accidents.  The co-pilot’s independent thinking was stifled by the power hierarchy under which he thought, and was responsible for his failure to take a corrective measure.

Likewise, in Sewol[69], one can conjecture that a sense of obligation to conform to the hierarchy between the crew and the passengers, suffocated the passengers’ desire to speak up (or act out, by jumping off the ship) against the “stay still” order.  Of course, the real cause of the disaster was the incompetence and immorality of these experts but their failures could have been corrected by independent judgment of the passengers. That unfortunately had been suppressed by the cultural forces.  The impact of that hierarchy was maximized by the fact that most of the passengers were high school students of Danwon High School on a graduation-celebrating trip (325 out of 477), out of whom only 75 were rescued (23%) while 91 were rescued out of 137 other passengers (67%).[70]  (Out of 14 teachers of that high school chaperoning the students, only 3 were rescued, eerily paralleling the rescue rate of the students, probably explained by the testimonies that the teachers remained with the students until the last minute).[71] The darkest but most popular joke around Danwon High School was that “Good kids died while naughty ones survived.”[72]

It is not just active orders between the crew and the passengers that suppresses effective decision-making.  Among the crew and the Coast Guards, the habit of respecting superiors’ orders creates a dormant order that paralyzes independent thinking of the people in inferior positions. The Sewol captain did not issue an order to abandon the ship just because the ship company did not tell him to (the captain did not issue it even when the Coast Guards traffic control told them to at 9:22 am[73]), the crew did not issue an abandon the ship order just because the captain did not tell them to, the Coast Guards did not independently issue an abandon the ship order upon arrival, one full hour before the submersion.  The only independent thinking exercised against a superior’s order was ironically by the captain of Coast Guards Ship 123 who refused to enter the ferry despite a direct order to do so from the superiors received at 9:47 am, for fear that the ferry might soon capsize, although it did not happen until 10:21 am.[74]

Within a month after the accident, a teacher working at Danwon High acknowledged, “Though not the primary cause, the school has to be blamed. Common sense judgment must have dictated them to jump off. Children were handicapped in their ability to appreciate the danger.”  A newspaper commenting on the interview blames the school for “adhering to injection-type of education focused on recitation, and thereby failing to nurture the students’ ability to make autonomous judgments.”[75]

At a symposium held about six months after the accident, a researcher at the provincial school board governing Danwon High school started the speech as follows: [76]

Students are not to be blamed for following the experts’ orders.  Rather, we the educators must confront fundamental questions such as whether we coerced the students so deeply into unilateral obedience to authority and failed so utterly to nurture their independent and critical thinking that they just stayed still in the cabin according to the crew’s announcement, even facing the fatal situation. . . .

The crew, who repeated broadcasting only the stay still order waiting for the superior’s direction, or the Coast Guards, who did not actively engage in rescue efforts just because there is no direction from above, present grave challenges.  The government’s disorganized rescue command is a probable manifestation of the same fundamental problem:  the responsible officials were busy just waiting for and accommodating the whims of their superiors without any authentic sense of professional duty.  All of these point to the complete absence of the autonomous individual capable of independent and critical thinking without his superior’s order or instruction (emphasis added).

The point is not to ignore the experts or the manual but not to force people to follow them blindly.  While experts and manuals are given due authority by people because they present persuasive explanations for their instructions, their authority is cyclical in nature in some societies: experts and manual must be followed without questions because they are authoritative. Such authoritative culture paralyzes independent thinking.

CNN also touched on the same issue, although the coverage triggered strenuous rebuttals by authors who called the coverage ‘ethnic stereotyping’.[77]  For me, it is surely incontestable that we cannot blame the victims and that the “government structures” are primarily to blame as the critics argue.  However, when we blame the hierarchy operating on the victims’ judgments and actions, we are not blaming the victims but the experts and officials, and ultimately “government structures” that have forced them to accept their bureaucratic manual-driven solutions.

Stereotyping hinders learning of the causes of the phenomena.  This inquiry of mine calls for the exact opposite.  Asking for better government is not an answer to the uniquely social nature of the Sewol disaster and begs questions on exactly what type of government will have prevented it.  In Sewol, clear opportunities for diversion were jettisoned in fatal paralyses of common sense.  Under such paralysis, rescue efforts of a “good government” would not have done better.  In delving into the causes of the unique aspect of the disaster, one needs to think about what political institutions would at least not have paralyzed the autonomous thinking and actions of rescue personnel and victims.


IV. Conclusion

As we try to figure out what constitutes a good government, the disasters like Sewol  remind us that one of those qualifications should be the laws that promote and reward independent thinking.  One of such laws is freedom of speech.

Censorship played three different important roles in letting Sewol happen.  Criminal prosecutions, especially truth defamation, paralyzed people’s ability to raise the red flags on the causes that led to Sewol, such as overloading. Broadcasting censorship silenced the media when they had bomb-shell facts that could have changed the course of post-submersion rescue efforts.

Furthermore, although it is social behavioral scientists’ jobs to prove it, my conjecture is that censorship has slowly killed the independent individual in us, whose rise is especially needed to respond to an accident not normally anticipated in the manuals.  The absence of the critical individual was repeated in Sewol by the captain who did not issue an “abandon the ship” order just because the shipping company did not order him to, the crew who did not alert the passengers to leave the ship just because the captain did not issue such order, and the coast guards who did not broadcast or otherwise alert or guide the passengers to abandon the ship just because there was no such order, and the coast guards who did not make common-sensical post-submersion rescue efforts but was busy following the standard procedure of contracting out what they believed became salvage operation.  Their collective failures to autonomously think and act, I believe, has been instilled by the laws that put dissident whistleblowers at risk of criminal indictment and condoned the compliant behavior that turned out to be disasater-prone.

Censorship on the critiques of the rescue efforts continued afterwards.  Hong Ga-Hye was arrested for criticizing the Coast Guards for blocking volunteer divers from entering the ship.[78]  Several people including the Japanese newspaper Sankei’s Seoul correspondent were arrested and/or indicted for questioning aloud the President’s whereabouts for approximately 7 hours following the disaster,[79] a crucial element in evaluating the quality of the government’s rescue command.

This is disconcerting because these censorial attitudes of the government will chill people into silence even when they see safety-threatening corruptions and invite another Sewol-like incident. Even if you do not buy any of what I said in the main text, the direct relationship between disaster relief and efficient communication was demonstrated in a study done on Twitter and how it contributed to obtaining the most accurate information for disaster relief.[80]  The researchers reviewed tweets RT’d around in the wake of February 2010 Chilean earthquake and found that the Twitter users’ responses worked as a filter that buoyed up more truthful tweets while letting sink unreliable tweets.  For safety, as many people as possible should be able to speak to all others unhindered so that the free market of ideas operates to let truths trickle up.  The more urgent the situation is, the freer and the faster the free market should operate.

Much like the captain that ordered the passengers to “stay still, the government that forced into silence the worker who could have averted the fateful overloading of Sewol as well as the broadcasters who could have alerted the public of the incompetence of the official rescue efforts is now ordering the Korean people to “stay still”,” which in the Korean original ironically means also ‘remain silent’.  If the people obey as the high school students did, they will be hit with another Sewol or two.  Free speech and other institutions that foster individuals’ independent thinking must urgently come to the rescue.



[1] Oh My News, “Entrusting Safety with Companies: One Year Anniversary of Sewol Report Card on Government’s Public Safety Policies, 2015.04.21  http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/View/at_pg.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0002101095; Workers’ Solidarity, “Looking Back at One Year after Sewol: Retrieve the Ship and Find Truths”, 2015.03.30, Volume 145,  http://wspaper.org/7_print_popup.php?articleNos=15622%2C15623%2C15625&title=%EC%84%B8%EC%9B%94%ED%98%B8+%EC%B0%B8%EC%82%AC+1%EB%85%84%EC%9D%84+%EB%8F%8C%EC%95%84%EB%B3%B4%EB%A9%B4%EC%84%9C

[2] BBC, “Unanswered Questions About Ferry Disaster”, 1999.11.28 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/539764.stm

[3] Wikipedia, “MS Estonia”, last modified 2016.06.12, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Estonia

[4] Hankyeoreh Shinmun, “Former Employee Has Informed the Presidential Ombudsman of Chunghaejin Risk”, 2014.4.29, http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/society/society_general/634965.html%20

[5] See Vaughan, D. (1996). The Challenger launch decision: risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[6] General Comment No. 34 of the UN Human Rights Committee, Para. 47, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf

[7] Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee’s Fourth Period Reports of the Republic of Korea, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR%2fC%2fKOR%2fCO%2f4&Lang=en

[8] MP LEE Chun-Seok’s Press Release, October 19, 2009 http://media.daum.net/tvnews/view.html?cateid=100000&newsid=20101006161113668&p=newsis

[9] http://www.article19.org/advocacy/defamationmap/overview.html (no longer available; last accessed in May 30, 2009)

[10] Prosecutors’ Office Year Book of 2014, Chapter 6, Pages 926, 966 http://www.spo.go.kr/spo/info/issue/spo_history02.jsp?mode=view&board_no=64&article_no=590945

[11] Courts’ Year Book of 2014, Section on Crimes, Chapter 5, Page 89 http://www.scourt.go.kr/portal/justicesta/JusticestaListAction.work?gubun=10

[12] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, on his mission to the Republic of Korea (6-17 May 2010), A/HRC/17/27/Add.2, paras. 25, 89 http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/121/34/PDF/G1112134.pdf?OpenElement

[13] People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Goverments’ Strategic Prosecutions Against Public Participation (2015) [참여연대, <국민입막음 소송 보고서> (2015)]

[14] Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue’s Korea Report, Para. 27 “The Special Rapporteur reiterates that for a statement to be considered defamatory, it must be false, must injure another person’s reputation, and made with malicious intent to cause injury to another individual’s reputation.”

[15] General Comment 34, para. 47, “All. . .penal defamation laws. . . should include such defences as the defence of truth..”

[16] Supreme Court 2004.10.15 Judgment 2004Do3912

[17] Supreme Court 2004.5.28 Judgment 2004Do1497

[18] Council of Europe, “Legal Provisions Concerning Defamation and Insult in Europe” <http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/media/doc/dh-mm(2003)006rev_EN.asp>

[19] William Roos, Case Comment, NETHERLANDS: COPYRIGHT: RIGHT TO PRIVACY AND PORTRAIT RIGHT, Entertain. Law Review 1998, 9(8), N146-147

[20] Supreme Court Judgment, March 28, 2013, 2012Do11914

[21] Korea Times “Poet Found Partially Guilty” 2013.11.13 https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/11/116_145842.html

[22] Yonhap News, “Poet Ahn Do-Hyun Acquitted of Election Law Violation by Appellate Court”, 2014.03.25 http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/politics/2014/03/25/0505000000AKR20140325076451055.HTML

[23] Brigitte Leoni, Tim Radford, Mark Schulman, “Disaster Through a Different Lens: a guide for journalists covering disaster risk reduction” United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) (2011)

[24] Deborah Potter, Sherry Ricchiardi, “Disaster and Crisis Coverage”, International Center for Journalists, p.8 (2002) http://www.icfj.org/sites/default/files/Disaster_Crisis.pdf

[25] JTBC, “Had Him in Womb for 10 Months, Can’t Give Him up in One Month”, 2014.4.27, http://news.jtbc.joins.com/html/146/NB10471146.html

[26] A Statement of 121 Reporters of MBC, May 12, 2014 http://news1.kr/articles/?1671036; MBC Reporters’ Association May 13, 2014 http://amn.kr/sub_read.html?uid=14117&section=sc27

[27] Yonhap News, “KBS Reporters Covering Sewol Upload An Apology on Intranet”, 2014.05.07 http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/culture/2014/05/07/0901000000AKR20140507181200005.HTML

[28] Joint Investigatory Authorities, Expert Advisory Board, Causes of Sewol Ferry Sinking [여객선세월호 침몰사고 원인분석 결과보고서, 합동수사본부 전문가 자문단]

[29] Hankyeoreh Shinmun, “Coast Guards Watched On While I Rescue Kids”, 2014.05.03 http://m.media.daum.net/m/media/society/newsview/20140503102007922

[30] KBS News at 9, “I Could Have Saved More: Courageous Passengers Saving Students”, 2014.4.17, http://news.kbs.co.kr/news/NewsView.do?SEARCH_NEWS_CODE=2847780&;

MBC News Desk, “ ‘Students First’ Till Sinking” 2014.4.17, http://imnews.imbc.com/replay/2014/nwdesk/article/3449691_13490.html

[31] Transcript, Korean Communication Standards Commission’s 27th Broadcasting Subcommittee Session’s Report, 2014.7.21, pp. 44-51

[32] Article 6 Para. 9 of the Broadcasting Law,  http://elaw.klri.re.kr/kor_service/lawView.do?hseq=25243&lang=ENG

[33] Kim Minhwan, et al., Research on Broadcasting Fairness Review, commissioned Korean Communication Standards Commission [김민환(책임)/한진만/윤영철/원용진/임영호/손영준, 방송의 공정성 심의에 대한 연구(방송통신심의위원회 용역보고서), 2008]

[34] The levels of discipline levied are, in an increasing order, Suggestion, Advisory, Caution, Warning with/without Personnel Actions, and Apology to Viewers with/without Personnel Actions, the last of which is no longer available because it was found unconstitutional.  Starting with Caution, the broadcasters receive points off during the subsequent re-licensing review.

[35] Twitter @unisdr, Posting on February 6, 2016

[36] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Estonia

[37] Sturcke, James (6 March 2007). “Herald of sea changes”The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2007.

[38] Except where expressly noted, all the data about the Sewol accident are from http://past.media.daum.net/sewolferry/timeline/.

[39] Joint Investigatory Authorities, Expert Advisory Board, Causes of Sewol Ferry Sinking [합동수사본부 전문가 자문단, <여객선 세월호 침몰 사고 원인분석 결과 보고서>], 2014.8.12, p. 4

[40] MBN, “Last Kakao Talk at 10:17 am: ‘Just Telling Us to Stay Still’”, 2014.4.28, http://media.daum.net/breakingnews/newsview?newsid=20140428204606930

[41] Joint Investigatory Authorities, Expert Advisory Board, Causes of Sewol Ferry Sinking, pp. 117-118

[42] Hankyoreh Shinmun, “Yang On-Yoo Goes Back into the Ship to Rescue Her Classmate”, 2014.6.17 http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/society/society_general/642883.html, Hankyoreh Shinmun, “To Chung Won-Suk, Who Went Back To Rescue His Classmate”, 2014.11.10 http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/society/society_general/663864.html

[43] http://news.hankooki.com/lpage/society/201404/h2014042603353821950.htm


On this, there are conflicting reports.  Wikitree and News 1 quote the Navy’s sources to report on an entry around 4-5 pm on the day of the sinking http://news1.kr/articles/1650157 http://www.wikitree.co.kr/main/news_view.php?id=168711, while Newsis reports on a 6:30 pm entry on the same day. http://www.newsis.com/ar_detail/view.html?ar_id=NISX20140425_0012878857&cID=10217&pID=10200

A conversation with Yi Kwang Bin, Yonhap Reporter, confirms that there was no official announcement issued or confirmed by the Navy or the rescue headquarter, and the “6:30 pm entry” story probably originated from unofficial accounts about the Navy operation around that time where the divers entered the water (not the ship) and tried to open the doors at the shallow points where people have already escaped. Hankook Ilbo’s full chronology does not include the 16th entry story. http://news.hankooki.com/lpage/society/201404/h2014042819352474990.htm The Navy’s own home page is also silent about its own 16th activities and speaks only of 18th efforts. http://www.navy.mil.kr/program/board/detail.jsp?boardTypeID=8&searchSelect=BOARDTITLE&keyWord=&boardCategory=&currentPage=5&menuID=001002002&startDate=&endDate=&boardLines=5&prevBoardTypeID=&searchItems=&searchItemsValue=&searchItemsCnt=&boardID=352572

[44]The Navy publicly complained of this decision by the Coast Guards. http://www.ytn.co.kr/_ln/0101_201404302258181004 http://news.kbs.co.kr/news/NewsView.do?SEARCH_NEWS_CODE=2855618

[45] http://news.jtbc.joins.com/html/526/NB10473526.html

[46] http://news.jtbc.joins.com/html/533/NB10473533.html?cloc=jtbc|news|index_showcase

[47] http://www.munhwa.com/news/view.html?no=2014042401030243061002

[48] http://nocutnews.co.kr/news/4402478

[49] http://bbs1.agora.media.daum.net/gaia/do/debate/read?bbsId=D003&articleId=5210913&RIGHT_DEBATE=R5

[50] http://media.daum.net/society/clusterview?newsId=20140420135704851&clusterId=1150909

[51] http://news.mk.co.kr/newsRead.php?sc=60700149&year=2014&no=614414

[52] http://dreamlives.tistory.com/964

[53] http://www.edaily.co.kr/news/NewsRead.edy?SCD=JG31&newsid=01279206606084984&DCD=A00703&OutLnkChk=Y

[54] Wikipedia “2007 South Korea Oil Spill”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_South_Korea_oil_spill

[55] Youtube, “Taean Disaster Has Been Framed, Part 2”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T72_Ki47j1c(between 5:06 and 6:11); Blog Doonjae, “Catching the Oil Leaking from the Tanker”, 2008.01.13 http://m.blog.daum.net/imbg77/13656078 ( “Big barges might have caused yet additional impacts on the tanker if the waves were high but the smaller barges could have been used to catch the falling oil from which the oil was pumped to the larger ones or another tanker.”)

[56] Blog Doonjae, “Catching the Oil Leaking from the Tanker”, 2008.01.13 http://m.blog.daum.net/imbg77/13656078 (“Even if the waves were high, the tanker did not sink but was sitting still.  How could they take two full days to plug three holes”); Kim Hyun Geun, Blog Post, 2008.1.8. http://ryum2001.blog.me/140046738077, (“In hindsight, if we grabbed some of the many sand barges floating around near Incheon shores, each of which is about 2-3,000 tons, would have reduced the leakage a lot.”)

[57]Weekly Dongah, “_____”, 2008.1.15,  http://weekly.donga.com/docs/magazine/weekly/2008/01/14/200801140500009/200801140500009_1.html (“The Coast Guards did contact me within 2 hours of the accident. I arrived at the scene within 5 hours of the accident. I still wonder what might have happened if the Coast Guards offered bigger ships and the ship owner allowed operation earlier.”) Yum Hyung Chul, “Taean Oil Spill Disaster and Corporate Social Responsibility”, Taean News 2008.4.24 http://www.taeannews.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=11765 (“Three damaged compartments No. 1, 3, 5 out of all the five compartments were plugged up only at 7:30 am on December 9, 48 hours after the impact and only after 10,500 ㎘ of oil spilled into the sea.”; “It is unfortunate because the 48 hours delay was due to the fact that the authorities used small fishing boats in the two early repair attempts to no avail.”)

[58] Kyunghyang Shinmun, Editorial, “One Full Night Wasted in Initial Response: Why Damage Grew”, 2007.12.09,  http://news.khan.co.kr/kh_news/khan_art_view.html?artid=200712091915371&code=940202 (“The main cause of the growing damage was the failure to plug the leaking holes promptly.  The authorities initially announced that relocating the remaining oil into the ballast stopped the leakage at noon of 7th and that there would be no more leakage.  However, the leakage continued until 7:30 am on 9th, 48 hours after the accident.”) ; Munhwa Daily, Editorial “Foiled Predictions, Over-optimistic Response Aggravated Damage”, 2007.12.10 http://www.munhwa.com/news/view.html?no=20071210010305242190042 (similarly critical of the authorities)

[59] Hankook Economy, “Tanker Captain’s Ingenuity Saves 6,800 kl Leakage” 2007-12-17 http://www.hankyung.com/news/app/newsview.php?aid=2007121763168

[60] According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Safety, 1,376,569 volunteer person-days were spent on cleaning up until May 31, 2008 [행정안전부,「자원봉사활동백서: 허베이 스피르트호 기름방제활동」(2008)]. The Coast Guards’ number, including the residents, the military, and public employees, shows 2,130,772 person-days[해양경찰청, 『허베이 스피리트호 유류오염사고 주간 방제 종합보고』(2008.9.13-9.19)].

[61] Yonhap News, “Busan Cargo Ship Oil Spill, Averted by Coast Guards Throwing In Their Whole Bodies”, 2014.2.15, http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2014/02/15/0200000000AKR20140215060300051.HTML

[62] Chung Dae Jin, Unpublished manuscript, delivered January 2015.

[63] Wikia.com, “Daegu Subway Fire Disaster”, http://ko.answers.wikia.com/wiki/%EB%8C%80%EA%B5%AC_%EC%A7%80%ED%95%98%EC%B2%A0_%ED%99%94%EC%9E%AC_%EC%B0%B8%EC%82%AC

[64] Junbook Daily, “Daegu Subway Disaster, Conductor Admits Misjudgment”, 2003.2.21 http://www.jjan.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=84577

[65] Dongah Daily, “Daegu Subway Arson Disaster, Kumho Station Chief Kwon Choon Sup Saves 60 Lives”, 2003.2.20, http://news.donga.com/3/all/20030219/7914510/1

[66] Hankyeoreh, “Public Announcement in Daegu Subway Disaster Was Also ‘Stay Still’”, 2014.4.18, http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/ISSUE/124/633398.html

[67] It is ironic that all stakeholder in hindsight wished that all the oil would have better burned in explosion than pollute the shore.

[68] http://news.jtbc.joins.com/html/237/NB10473237.html

[69] http://m.mt.co.kr/new/view.html?no=2014042714055336151

[70] Wikipedia, “Sewol Sinking Accident”, last modified May 30, 2016 https://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/%EC%84%B8%EC%9B%94%ED%98%B8_%EC%B9%A8%EB%AA%B0_%EC%82%AC%EA%B3%A0

[71] Chosun Ilbo, “ ‘You Go On Up’: Teachers Who Went Down”, 2014.5.21, http://premium.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2014/05/21/2014052100258.html

[72] Private conversations with anonymous individuals

[73] JTBC, “Unable to Announce Abandon at 9:23 am? CCTV Find Crew Lies”, 2014.4.30, http://media.daum.net/breakingnews/newsview?newsid=20140430223813343

[74] Kyunghyang Shinmun, “Coast Guards Chief Order to Enter Ship Resisted By Captain”, 2014.5.18, http://news.khan.co.kr/kh_news/khan_art_view.html?code=940202&artid=201405181832291

[75] Kyunghyang Shinmun, “Safety as Embodied Experience Through Sewol”, 2014. 5.12, http://news.khan.co.kr/kh_news/khan_art_view.html?artid=201405112151095&code=940202

[76] Chang Eun Joo, “Education Leaving No Child Behind”, 2014.9.30, Paper presented at Symposium Korean Education at Risk, Where to Exit, hosted by Kyunggi Province Education Research Institute [장은주, “단 한명의 아이도 포기하지 않는 교육”, 2014.9.30, 경기도교육연구원 심포지엄 <위기의 한국교육 탈출구는 어디에>]

[77] CNN, “South Korean cultural values played a role in passengers staying below deck as ferry sank”, 4.18.2014, http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/18/south-korea-cultural-values-played-a-role-in-passengers-staying-below-deck-as-ferry-sank/. http://www.vice.com/read/stop-blaming-south-koreas-culture-for-last-weeks-ferry-disaster. http://time.com/75742/south-korea-ferry-asian-stereotypes-culture-blaming/

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