Sewol Tragedy: May 2

– Thought Cheonghaejin Marine could look any worse than it already does? Think again (HT to King Baeksu):

The owner of the sunken ferry Sewol refused coverage of funeral costs for part-time employees of the ship, according to Kookmin Ilbo Wednesday.

The development sprouted from the deaths of Lee, 19, and Bang, 20, who worked in Sewol distributing meals to passengers. After the accident, their bodies were recovered Tuesday on the ferry’s fifth floor lobby.

The report said Cheonghaejin Marine, the ferry’s owner, notified the city of Incheon that they will cover funeral expenditures only for its regular employees and not for part-timers.

The company is also being accused to hiding evidence following the sinking.

– And just when you thought things could get any seedier, we have people wondering what the hell the captain—who was wearing just his underwear when he was rescued—was doing with a middle-aged Korean woman and a Filipina singer. See more here (Korean).

– At least John Mayer wants to help.

– President Park’s going to apologize again. Or so it appears, anyway. Let’s hope it goes down better than her last one, but I’m not holding out hope. I admit that an apology is politically necessary at this point, but as for what, exactly, the government needs to apologize for, I think we’re going to have to wait for the follow-up investigations and hearings before we know. I think it’s safe to say that the government dropped the ball BEFORE the accident by allowing Cheonghaejin Marine to operate, but as for its handling of the accident itself, honestly, I don’t know what’s true and what ain’t. There’s just too much shoddy journalism, grief-driven anger and political point-scoring for that. I do recommend Aja Aja’s comments in this thread, though.

– To add to Kuiwon’s comment here, I do find it odd—you know, given the way Confucianism and other aspects of Korean culture have come under scrutiny following the Sewol sinking—that nobody’s asking what role Baptist theology and American missionary activity may have played in the tragedy. While we’re on the subject, see Dogbertt’s comment here:

Interesting to me that so many are eager to blame “Korean culture” for the actions of the captain, etc., but I haven’t seen anyone praise “Korean culture” for the incredible, selfless sacrifice of those crewmembers who gave their lives knowingly and willingly to save passengers. I would rather praise that as “Korean culture”.

– The Dong-A Ilbo ran an interview with former 2ID commander Russel L. Honoré, who is better known State-side as the commander of Joint Task Force Katrina. As you’d imagine, the interview deals with leadership in times of disaster, but it also talks about the lessons he learned from the 2002 Miseon-Hyosun Incident.

  • KWillets

    The diving bell busybodies are taking out another one of those loopy NYT ads: . Hope it makes print before all their evidence is refuted.

  • Aja Aja

    Regarding those two young part time crew members who were killed, they were paid barely over $100 for their two nights and three days of work. This is not even $4 an hour convenience store wages. It’s outrageous what this company was allowed to get away with, just in terms of how they were hiring and treating their workers. This company has to be cleaned out and the heads arrested and serve life terms for everything including violation of labor rights.

  • redwhitedude

    But you will come across as a politically inspired prosecution case. Anyways I think this company needs to be shut down and the owners Jailed for life without parole. Ordered to pay for the funeral expenses for all employees and victims.

  • shah8

    Unfortunately, this really starts calling to memory a very funny Pushing Daisies scene with the extraction of all those clowns from a submerged car. I don’t think I like the association of this tragedy with that memory.

    But still, if it really is that tawdry and funny in that horrific Coen Bros way…

    Do Koreans even *have* pitchforks?

    Just saw the NYTimes article on the all that digital last words stuff from the kids. Totally inflammatory…

  • cmxc

    Korean subway train collision injures 170 — what happened to improving national safety???


    Trains are halted between Euljiro 1-ga station and Seongsu station on Line 2 … that’s goign to cause some issues..

  • Kuiwon

    Now that you’ve mentioned it, I can’t think of any religious cults in Korea prior to the 19th century, when American Protestant missionaries first entered. Anyone care to add?

  • T.K.

    I generally agree with the point that the uncouth elements of the opposition is being opportunistic. For the sake of fairness, however, it also needs to be said that the PGH administration is reverting to its classic Yushin form. Like planting plainclothes police among the families, blocking their protests or punishing people who express dissent.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Re: Park’s Apology

    This is probably not going to be a long enough comment on this subject which I have been meaning to post on, but there is a disconnect as to what an “apology” is, and what it constitutes of, and what it should aim to do between what we know in the West and Asia (Korea/Japan). For example, one thing which stuck with me which my mother told me when I was young, who was a bit of an eccentric/rebel herself, was “Don’t apologize”. This was very very different from the Korean upbringing.

    If I were to say “Sorry, an equivalent in Korean in this instance would be “I did wrong 잘못했어요 rather than 죄송합니다/미안합니다” she would ask ” 뭘 잘못했는지 알아? Do you know what it is that you have done wrong?”
    She would say, “It’s not good enough you say you did wrong, you should not do wrong in the first place, the apology means very little after you have already done wrong. You should not do the things you would be sorry for later, and not be quick to apologize for the sake of apologizing”.

    Also, the Koreans/Japanese have a great art of apologizing/repenting.
    This is because the way an apology is used/viewed/construed/forced places less importance on the *actual deed* in question, but rather the respective current position/sentiment/love/hate w.r.t. each other between the person doing the apology and the person receiving the apology.

    One of the main reasons why the Japanese, the people who are famous for “bowing their heads” and “going on their knees” and “touching the ground with their foreheads” are having a hard time at the moment, is that they themselves don’t actually know what the predecessors have apologized for (e.g. comfort women and evidence), and feel it was done under the duress/pressure of Chinese/Koreans, so they want to get to the bottom of it themselves.

    So I agree, that Park should not apologize, because from what I have read so far on what she has said, will be one of *those* apologies, she definitely won’t know what she is apologizing for, and I don’t know if this sort of apology solves any problems.

  • Sumo294

    No I disagree–the company needs to be examined top to bottom–very thoroughly–this is the first time a company of this size has been laid bared open to the public without anyone to protect it from scrutiny. It is necessary to understand exactly how it worked and how it created efficiencies that made it profitable. The key here is not only knowledge but “accurate” and a “reasonable” understanding of what the accused entity was and is.

  • Sumo294

    Yuna–you are digressing on a public forum–it subtracts from the occasional great pieces of commenting you sometimes do. I believe you love Korea in your own way and I think you push yourself to improve–indulging in such rumination over process and intrinsic symbolism makes others view you as an immature grad student. Save such talk when you drink beer or wine with friends.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    It’s a public forum because it’s public, no?

    Pity it *subtracts* when what I say doesn’t agree with well your digestive system. I notice last time you called me a low-born girl or something was also when you thought I was being harsh on Park or politicizing or something.

    My sets of views and values cannot please everybody on everything. Meh!

  • Sumo294

    Yuna–I don’t actually mind that you are liberal–but why not be great at it. Why be mediocre when you don’t you need to be? You have potential and honestly I wish for real debate with a top caliber liberal.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    A liberal.
    What does that even mean?

    As for me, I don’t wish for a debate with somebody who throws the “you should have more respect for the elders” card around so *liberally.* (I *think* that was you but I may be wrong)

  • Sumo294

    I am waiting for you to grow up and to become a pillar of intellectual thought for future Korean children. You will likely become an educator and if the future children of Korea must become liberal imitators of the West at least they should be educated in the better and finer details that it has to offer.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    You’ll be waiting a *long* time then.

    Better still, talk with the other Koreans around here who consider themselves much better suited for such great roles and leave me out of it altogether, please.

    Let me be a *liberal imitator of the West* in peace with my *misplaced priorities* according to you (again I *think* it was you who brought that up one time out of nowhere but I may be wrong) in my *low-born status*.

    I *absolutely* stand by the relevance and importance of my comment on Park’s apology. Many in Korea think the same (Although I gather if you do not agree with the government, or criticize it as a Korean at the moment, you are in danger of falling into a box labelled “political opportunist”, according to a set of new directives set up around here of “friend-or-foe”)

    Also, a lot of my “liberal imitators of the West” Japanese friends I have are very interested in Park, and I have often told them about a lot of parallel stuff between what she does and what she asks of the Japanese.

  • pawikirogii

    stay strong, madame president. i love you!

  • bigmamat

    I agree Park shouldn’t apologize but for a different reason than yours. Although your reasoning sounds reasonable and in no way immature. An empty apology is an empty apology, your mom is right about that. I’m also from the land of empty apologies so hearing another one isn’t necessary. I just don’t think Park has anything to apologize about. I’m told the shipping industry was deregulated in 2008, she wasn’t in office. I’m hearing that her management style is micromanagement but certainly she’s not operating at this level. I often think it’s wrong for a leader to apologize for something that didn’t come under the scope of their tenure. It shows weakness and a willingness to without lack of a better word, pander to public pressure. Besides I don’t think the Korean people need to hear an apology. They need to be reassured that their government cares about their safety and well being.

  • Aja Aja

    Yuna, she doesn’t know what she’s apologizing about because she didn’t do anything wrong. She shouldn’t even be apologizing. She should stand her ground and just ignore all the gripes about her not apologizing. Those gripes aren’t going to go away anyway, even if she apologizes 2nd time.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Yes, Bigmamat, I agree with you. She actually herself has *done* nothing that needs apologizing.

    There is a tenuous link that can be placed with her being from the same party as 이명박 who would be more the guy who should be responsible for some of the measures that might have affected and led to the disaster but then again, that would be politicizing.

    However, I still stand by the fact that as a figurehead, when something goes wrong on a national scale there is an element of somebody *who was meant to be in charge* should be responsible, and I don’t think that Koreans are wrong in blaming her for that.

    Robert linked to an interview in the other thread with Russell Honore, in which he says at the end:

    ―대형 재난사고 때 국가 리더의 역할은 무엇이라고 보는가.

    What do you see as the role of a leader of a nation being in the case of a large-scale disaster?

    “모든 재난 사고의 최종 책임자는 대통령이다. 카트리나 사태를 지휘하면서 능력 있는 리더는 ‘먼저 보고, 먼저 이해하고, 먼저 행동해야 한다’는 3대 원칙을 지켜야 한다는 것을 배웠다. 무능한 리더는 대형 사고가 닥쳤을 때 비난이 두려워 행동해야 할 때 하지 못한다.”

    The final responsibility of all disasters lies with the president. I learned from being in charge of the Katrina disaster that a able leader should keep by the three rules of “look first, understand first and act first”. Incompetent leaders do not act during large disasters when they need to act because they are scared of being criticized”.

    Or something to that effect.

    There definitely needed to be a person in charge coordinating and directing at the scene of the accident. The lack of it is what led to many many dying.

    It was a 우왕좌왕 scene and she has to take the blame in the end for the lack of that. She and a lot of her supporters do not understand from the heart what the interview is saying, and decry “politicizing”, and I see a good deal of effort only in trying to manage the situation of “the political support dropping”.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    That’s what the Japanese say, and I absolutely agree with you there.

  • bumfromkorea

    It is in the interest of PGH and her administration to apologize again. This has been a perfect storm of PR nightmare for this administration, a combination of lack of tact (from both the administration and the majority party), lack of common sense, and the accumulated public distrust.

    It is still unclear just how directly responsible PGH’s administration is for this tragedy (my assumption at this point would be between ‘not really responsible’ and ‘could’ve done a better job’). But, nothing says “I’m an insensitive PR-blind idiot who doesn’t know how to hold a public office in a modern democracy” than “I already apologized, and for nothing, so I refuse to do it again”.

  • bigmamat

    I don’t see big disasters like this as non political. I think Koreans have every right to point to their government and ask for answers. Perhaps an apology is in order but an apology with assurances is what is really needed. I’ll concede that point. I’m not well versed at all on Korean politics that’s fairly apparent but it’s also one reason why I come here, is to learn. What I do recognize in Korean politics is a slavish devotion to free market economic policy that is no doubt inherited from the U.S. What I find interesting about Korean society is the implied collective mind set that does not extend to public policy. In many ways it doesn’t seem to apply to Koreans as individuals either. Forgive me if I’m wrong or if I’m using an ugly metaphor but I find Koreans to be in many ways more competitive and “dog eat dog” than even Americans. Certainly your politics are just as polarized. And your political discourse is littered with just as much vitriol, prevarication, blame shifting, entrenched thinking and shade throwing as mine. I’m not sure it gives me a warm and fuzzy to know that people are pretty much the same no matter where you go.

  • JW

    I have serious doubts now as to whether the captain deserves the greatest blame for this disaster. The facts are : 1) he was a recently hired contract employee, and 2) there were phone calls made between the regular employee crew and ferry company’s headquarters soon after the ship started sinking. That should lead any reasonable observer to conclude that it is highly likely given the way these types of employer-employee relationships are structured in South Korea (this is where the cultural – structural argument comes in I think) that the captain was *not* allowed by the company to make final decisions regarding a hugely valuable asset such as what the Sewol ferry represented to them.

    I think the key point here is that we should evaluate blame based on the cultural – structural context in which this disaster occurred and not necessarily according to international maritime standards.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Yes, the vitriol you cannot even imagine, certainly comes out much more if you understand Korean and read the comments in Korean news portal.

    If by *your* you mean “American (U.S.) compared to that, the Korean politics has several more layers of dirt and grit in the form of “regionalism” and also some division by age/generation.

    Hey, I would be happy enough knowing people are pretty much the same, it’s coming across that they might not be that gives me the pepto bismal attacks. You certainly go by a luxurious standard.

  • bigmamat

    That sounds really good except now it appears he was literally caught with his pants down below deck with a couple of women while he left a 26 year old newbie at the helm. Even if he hadn’t been responsible for the safety of his passengers and crew what the hell was he doing when he was supposed to be working? He claims he was changing his pants.

  • Aja Aja

    JW, there were seven calls made between the ship and the company in that short half hour. They didn’t discuss the passengers at all. What they discussed was the cargo, company worrying about what’s happened to the cargo, and how they’re going make this look like they weren’t overloading the ship. Not once any of them mention the passengers. Both the captain and the company’s in charge are one of the most evil fucked up people I’ve ever heard in my entire life. If there’s really a god, when they die, they should burn in hell. Don’t even try to make any excuses for this guy. He is not even worth being called a human.

  • JW

    I’m not making excuses for him. I’m saying that the greater blame belongs elsewhere. That doesn’t mean that I think he should get a lighter sentence than what he’ll probably get.

  • A Korean

    There was a comment noting some dumbasses collecting money for NYT ad. Sorta of things that make you question evolution.

    The families and friends of the victims of this disaster need to get together and organize. Don’t simply lament the fucked-up state of the country. Get organized, mobilize, demand a full, transparent investigation, and comprehensive reform measures to help insure such needless death do not occur, ever again.

    But only if they don’t want their loved ones’ death to be “개죽음”. And this goes for the whole of Korean public.

  • bigmamat

    Believe me American politics is chock full of the same stuff and then some. Maybe you don’t follow American politics that closely, it wouldn’t be easy if you did. Add racism to all the things you mentioned and believe me just having someone that doesn’t resort to name calling and physical threats during a political debate is a luxury.

  • cactusmcharris

    Pawi, she’s not from Texas, so there’s no need for the Big Hair.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Has everybody seen the Newstapa clip already?

    This is the father of one of the dead.

    He released the video clip of the interior of the ship filmed by his dead son, with the approval from other parents.

    Listen to his interview.

    Watch the clip (if you have the nerve), of the kids singing titanic.
    These kids clearly didn’t know that they were going to die, and they should not have died.

  • Aja Aja

    Did Bush apologize for Katrina?

  • cactusmcharris

    I think the key point here is that we should evaluate blame based on the cultural – structural context in which this disaster occurred and not necessarily according to international maritime standards.

    JW, no that wouldn’t be the way to do it immediately, IMO. Perhaps longer-term, but nothing’s going to change culturally unless you use international standards. Changing the culture is like trying to hold back the ocean with a bucket.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Yes, but you don’t have fisticuffs and people rolling out fire hydrants in the Senate or the House, right, or haven’t in a long while, right?

  • bigmamat

    I saw a bit of it yesterday but it wasn’t subtitled. When it switched to the kids I got a bit unnerved and turned it off. I’m not sure I need to see the last moments of all those darling young people. My maternal instinct and my tired old heart couldn’t take it.

  • Aja Aja

    The entire clip show the kids were joking, and they did not understand the gravity of the events unfolding in their midst. Laughing, joking about sinking, jokingly shouting “save me!”. The PA system keeps announcing to them to stay put and absolutely not move because it’s dangerous. None of them knew they were going to die.

  • bigmamat

    Damned it I can remember somehow I think not. Bush didn’t seem to have any kind of self awareness at all.

  • Aja Aja

    He didn’t apologize because he didn’t have to. No American opposition party or American citizens, demanded one from him.

  • bigmamat

    Oh but girlfriend that would be so much more fun! I actually wish congress was as polarized as their constituencies. Most of us get the feeling these days that after they finish arguing on the congressional floor everyone goes out for a drink and good laugh at our expense.

  • bigmamat

    You’re probably right but at that point I think everyone pretty much realized they wouldn’t get one even if they demanded it.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    No, but everybody else in the world remembers this:

    That actually meant a lot I remember.

  • bigmamat

    So how do you like us now? Cause I’m sorry to disappoint.

  • Sumo294

    I believe what we are seeing unfolding in front of us is a stealth mini chaebol that managed to grow and stay out of the limelight under an umbrella of a religious network. It would not surprise me that many other organizations exist with mini groups of such pseudo families that offers new alliances outside of blood ties. The theology of productive evangelical materialism would be attractive to Koreans in general and as it evolved into a mini version of an intra-state model it created efficiencies that could only exist under this umbrella of mutual protection. Younger government officials likely instinctively knew that an alliance with such a group would be mutually beneficial and so the corruption began.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    With apologies to Baduk and BCarr, I was like many in Europe (although I was living in Korea the first time Obama got elected) – happy about Obama representing us as Earthlings..i.e. I would have no problems with it if an alien landed and said “Take us to your leader” that leader being Barack.

    And the second time, just as happy, but I was more certain of it that time around(although the US news channels we were streaming did try their best to keep the viewers watch till the end by faking the closeness)

  • pawikirogii


  • Brendon Carr

    Then you, Yuna, are some kind of fool. I am disappoint.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    As I said, I cannot agree with/please everybody on everything, otherwise they would be me, and sometimes I don’t even agree with myself.

  • A Korean

    yuna and nobama, sitting on a tree…

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    And I did laugh out aloud at Baduk’s order of “Coppercare”..I understand what he means because I rarely visit hospital myself, having lived some time in that worst system on the whole planet called the NHS where everything should be cured by a spoonful of strawberry syrup (Mary Poppins surely had the first NHS system in her bag)

    Alien: Take me to your leader
    Baduk: Which one? The one that lives in the jungle?
    Alien: No, your human leader.
    Baduk: Oh,him. Could you ask him to bring out “Coppercare”? Tell him I rarely visit the hospital and that Bronzecare is too expensive.
    Alien: ?
    Baduk: Don’t worry, he’ll know.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Would be an honour to sit in a tree with Obama, although I don’t find married /attached men attractive.

  • khat311

    i’ll reply here because AJ closed the comments.
    1. Yes you need to grow up, the fact that her knee’s make you feel the need to point out how wrong it is for her to look like that and sprout bs about how it’s healthy for is childish.

    2.Yes people do diet to be thin, just like people have disorders where they can’t loose any weight, heck even gain weight. People will starve, people will binge, that doesn’t mean you need to stereotype that the idea of wanting to be thin is harmful to the mind. Any standard is, you pointing out her knee’s negatively is no different.

    3. Thigh gap is just wide hips. If you have wide hips they will not touch if you are not overweight when you’re legs are together. I know girls want thigh gaps to have longer legs, but that’s their ideals. We as humans find certain bone structure more attractive than others. If one finds the thigh gap appealing so what, why are you to judge?

  • JW

    I agree changing the culture is a long term project but that — blaming the culture/structure — wasn’t what I was trying to get at with my comment above. I’m saying rather that you have to take that structure *into account* if you’re trying to figure out how to assess the moral responsibility. People right now are too focused on the captain given the facts it looks like. He’ll hopefully get what he deserves by the application of the law which on the face of it appears to be strict for cases like this in Korea thanks to the legislation last year of added prison time for dereliction of duty.

  • Brendon Carr

    I think he’d be up for an afternoon sitting in a tree. Anything but work. Do you have $35,000 to donate to his political action committee?

  • MikeinGyeonggi


    I really hope that if they did reach their financial goal, the NYT would be wise enough to turn down the ad.

  • sloppycho

    No, but we had a congressmen (Larry David) cruising around for gay sex in public restroom stalls tapping his right foot as a signal to drop dem drawers. The fact that he was a God-fearin’ Christian Republican from Idaho, denying the whole sordid mess made it so memorable and entertaining to watch

    Then there was Congressman Weiner texting dick pics to underage girls and who is now the proud face of our own Brendon Carr.

    And Rob Ford the Mayor of Toronto – although he’s not American, he might as well be – crack smoking, racist, grossly obese, turd of a politician who’ll never admit to his wrongdoing even in the face of video evidence which causes him to double-down on crazy.

    I could go on and on and on…

  • Brendon Carr

    Larry David is a New York Jew transplanted to Southern California, and I don’t believe he is a homosexual. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  • JW

    For any experts out there — is there any plausibility to the idea that the ferry company’s decision makers intentionally tried to keep the passengers inside so that less weight is transferred to the sinking side which would presumably increase whatever small chance of keeping the ship from completely sinking and thereby save their precious assets? Once a ship tilts however many degrees that the Sewol tilted in the initial moments, is there any chance at all that the ship doesn’t sink completely?

  • silver surfer

    Profit at any cost describes this company. It’s becoming increasingly clear that neoliberal capitalism is the primary culprit behind the Sewol sinking, not Korean culture, and certainly not ‘Confucianism’.

    One might still look at Korean culture as an explanation for the way the crew and passengers behaved tho’.

  • redwhitedude

    To put it in plain english it was a regulatory failure as well as greed. The company was pushing things while there was no proper oversight and enforcement. Don’t understand where culture comes in here.