SKorean Ferry: Search at Difficult Stage, NKorea Sends Condolences
Author: Steve Han
Posted: April 23rd, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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Image via NoCut News: A table set by the families of the South Korean ferry victims

Hopes of finding survivors from the capsized South Korean ferry are dwindling as the death toll reached 159 as of 9 a.m. PST on Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

As the tragedy reached its one-week mark, 140 people are still missing as divers continue searching through cold and murky waters. Most of the victims were students from Danwon High School who were on a four-day field trip to South Korea’s Jeju Island.

Authorities told the Associated Press that the search operation has now reached a difficult stage of having to break down cabin walls in order to get to certain parts of the ship, where many of the missing are believed to be. They are reluctant to start a “salvage” operation, essentially searching for corpses, trying to be sensitive to families of the missing, some of whom still hold on to hope of finding survivors.

However, other families of the missing want the government at this point to do whatever they can to bring back bodies before they decompose even more.

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April Cover Story: E.J. Ok Is One of the Greatest Point Guards You Never Heard of
Author: Steve Han
Posted: April 23rd, 2014
Filed Under: April 2014 , Back Issues , BLOG , FEATURED ARTICLE
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One of the Greats

Long before Linsanity, crowds in Louisiana were chanting “EJ! EJ!” for a 5-foot-6 basketball talent from South Korea. E.J. Ok would become one of the greatest point guards ever to play college basketball, yet her name and repute hardly make the radar outside of her adopted home state, where she is revered.  This is the untold story of a woman—and phenomenal athlete—ahead of her time, but whose dream of winning a national title is still in play. (And don’t forget to check out Ok’s player highlights video after the story!)

photograph by  TERRANCE ARMSTARD

With three hours to go before tipoff, the line outside Ewing Coliseum on the campus of Northeast Louisiana University circled around the arena. An antsy crowd of 7,000 eagerly waited to enter for the biggest and most anticipated game of March Madness basketball in the school’s history.

The Lady Indians were about to take on their longtime rivals, Louisiana Tech, in the NCAA Midwest Regional championship game for a berth in the nation’s Final Four.

As the game got underway, fervent chants of “EJ! EJ!” from the crowd reverberated inside the arena at eardrum-splitting levels, as fans showed their appreciation for NLU’s star player, E.J., short for Eun Jung, Lee. The junior point guard, who only came to the U.S. from Gimje, South Korea, three years earlier, had already earned a special place in the hearts of these fans. Continue Reading »

SKorean Ferry Tragedy Links: Death Count Tops 100; Acts of Bravery Among Ship’s Crew
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: April 22nd, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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Death Count In Ferry Sinking Tops 100

One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago.

Dozens of police officers in neon green jackets formed a cordon around the dock as the bodies arrived Tuesday. Since divers found a way over the weekend to enter the submerged ferry, the death count has shot up. Officials said Tuesday that confirmed fatalities had reached 104, with nearly 200 people still missing.

Acts of bravery emerge from pilloried ship crew

As the ferry sank, some crew members gave their lifejackets to passengers. One refused to leave until she shepherded students off the ship, and was later found dead. Others worked from rescue boats to break windows with hammers and pull people trapped in cabins to safety.

Nearly a week after the sinking of the South Korean ferry, with rising outrage over a death count that could eventually top 300, the public verdict against the crew of the Sewol has been savage and quick. “Cowards!” social media users howled. “Unforgivable, murderous,” President Park Geun-hye said Monday of the captain and some crew.

Some fled the ferry, including the captain, but not all. At least seven of the 29 crew members are missing or dead, and several of those who survived stayed on or near the ship to help passengers.

Port becomes epicenter of grief
Korea JoongAng Daily

The center of the sunken ferry tragedy shifted to Paengmok Harbor in Jindo, South Jeolla, where relatives of missing ferry passengers were invited to view remains to see if they are of their loved ones.

As rescue authorities extract a greater number of corpses from the capsized Sewol Ferry, relatives shifted from the gymnasium that has been their temporary home to the port 30 minutes away by car, where a row of snowy white tents have been erected for the viewing of remains and for families to rest.

First sign of South Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

The first distress call from a sinking South Korean ferry was made by a boy with a shaking voice, three minutes after the vessel made its fateful last turn.

He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.

The Sewol ferry sank last Wednesday on a routine trip south from the port of Incheon to the traditional honeymoon island of Jeju.

Grief Turns to Anger at Government Over Ferry Sinking

As the official death toll from a South Korean ferry that sank last week grew to more than 100, newspaper editorials suggest the national mood was shifting from grief to outrage at the government’s handling of the tragedy.

“People are descending into a collective sense of powerlessness, unable to trust the government with protecting them in emergency situations,” Chosun Ilbo, the nation’s largest circulation newspaper, said in an editorial headlined: “Emergency headquarters abound, but no real disaster handler.”

Owners of doomed ferry barred from leaving South Korea
USA Today

As the death toll from the sinking of a South Korea ferry climbed above 100, South Korean authorities arrested or detained six more crewmembers and issued a foreign travel ban for 44 executives, shareholders and family owners of the company that operated the ill-fated vessel.

Divers, who have opened up five underwater passages into the submerged ferry, continue to search around the clock for more bodies from the 5-story-high Sewol that sank off the southwest coast of Korea last week.

The death toll Tuesday increased to 121 out of the 476 people — mostly high school students — who were on board the vessel when it began listing 12 miles off the coast of the island of Jindo after making a sharp turn.

Funeral for vice principal who took own life

Kang Min Kyu, 52, taught ethics.

Kang, who was vice principal at Ansan’s Danwon High School, was rescued from the sinking Sewol ferry.

Just two days after the accident, he was found dead after apparently hanging himself using a belt from a tree in the city of Jindo. In a note, he expressed regret he had survived while so many others had died.

Monday’s Links: Round-up of SKorean Ferry Tragedy Coverage
Author: Cassandra Kwok
Posted: April 21st, 2014
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Errors Mounted as Chaos Ruled Capsizing Ferry
New York Times

Of all the images from the loss of a ferry in the cold waters off the southwest coast of South Korea last week, perhaps none has angered South Koreans more than that of the captain, an orange life vest strapped to his torso, awkwardly stepping off his half-submerged vessel to the safety of a rescue boat, even as hundreds of his passengers remained trapped inside.

The captain, Lee Jun-seok, 69, has yet to explain publicly why he abandoned the ship with people aboard — an apparent violation of maritime protocol, if not the law — as it sunk beneath the waves.

Transcript of South Korea Ship Sinking: ‘We Can’t Move’
ABC News

The following is a portion of the transcript released Sunday by the South Korean coast guard of the conversation between the ferry that sank Wednesday and the Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center (VTS) on Jindo island. The ferry Sewol issued its distress call to another VTS center before these communications began. The Associated Press translated the transcript from Korean. The names of other ships included in the transcript are omitted at the request of South Korean authorities.

9:07 a.m.

SEWOL: Jindo VTS, this is Sewol ferry.

JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, Sewol ferry, this is VTS. Is your ship sinking now?

Relatives on shore lose hope of survivors
Korea JoongAng Daily

After making their first entry into the capsized Sewol Friday afternoon, search and rescue teams brought up 16 bodies from the doomed vessel, raising the total death toll to 58 as of 7 p.m. yesterday.

Of the 58 dead, at least 22 are Danwon High School 11th graders, who were on a four-day trip to Jeju Island when the ferry carrying 476 people capsized Wednesday morning.

Search and rescue teams found no survivors trapped inside the upside-down vessel in waters off the southwestern coast, raising fears that casualties will soon surge.

South Korean ferry victims’ families ask, ‘How are we going to live now?’

The grief of any parent who loses a child is unimaginable. But that pain is amplified now in South Korea, due to the uncertainty over the fate of hundreds — many of them children on a school field trip — on a sunken ferry and how this east Asian nation’s culture copes with such heartache.

For proof, one need look no further than hospital beds where some parents are hooked up to IVs because their sorrow is so great that they have refused to eat.

Some say they don’t want to live.

Families under tremendous emotional stress
Korea Herald

Family members of missing passengers on the Sewol ferry expressed anger and outrage due to psychological trauma, according to a therapist who volunteered to help families on Jindo Island.

The emotional stress has been escalating in the gymnasium on Jindo Island where families gathered to hear news about their loved ones. Furious about the little progress made in the search effort, some threw water bottles and shouted at officials during briefings.

According to therapist Jeong Gyeong-sook, the families are at the most sensitive emotional stage.

4 More Detained in Ferry Sinking
KKTV 11 News

Four more crew members are being detained in the sinking of a South Korean ferry, and prosecutors have 48 hours to decide whether to pursue arrest warrants against them.

Already, the captain and two other crew members have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, in last Wednesday’s sinking that’s left more than 300 people either dead or missing.

As divers continue to search the interior of the submerged vessel, the confirmed death toll is up to 84.

South Korean President Calls Ferry Crew ‘Murderous’

South Korea wants answers. Five days after a ferry sank off the country’s southern coast, the nation is waiting for information about the fate of those on board, and the cause of the disaster. A transcript of the ship’s communication with the shore, released Sunday, provides a partial glimpse into what transpired after the Sewol took a sharp turn, listed, then sank last Wednesday morning. Though much is still unclear, the exchange suggests a chaotic scene as crew members weighed whether or not to evacuate the ship.

The 6,825-ton ferry set off April 15 from the port city of Incheon, near Seoul, making its twice-weekly overnight journey to the resort island of Jeju. The Japan-made vessel was carrying 476 people, including 350 high school students on a class trip. Just before 8:55 a.m. on April 16, the ship sent a distress signal. “Our ship is in danger,” a crew member said. Two hours later, it was nearly submerged. One hundred and seventy four people survived. As of Monday evening, local time, 64 are confirmed dead and 240 remain missing.

Was Park Right to Condemn Ferry Crew?
Wall Street Journal

On Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye declared that the actions of the captain and crew of the fated ferry Sewol were “tantamount to murder.”

The statement appeared to tap into national outrage over TV footage showing the captain, Lee Jun-seok, being among the first to escape the ship as it capsized.

Mr. Lee and the two other members in charge of the ship at the time it went down have been arrested on charges of abandoning the ship in violation of the seafarers’ law, which stipulates they must help passengers leave a wrecked ship safely.

Dodgers’ Ryu Feels Special Connection to Ferry Victims
Author: Steve Han
Posted: April 21st, 2014
Filed Under: BLOG
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Photos by Mark Edward Harris for KoreAm

In the wake of the recent South Korean maritime disaster, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu held an autograph signing to raise funds for the survivors and families of the victims.

Ryu made a special appearance Sunday at the Viva Los Dodgers event to help those affected by the capsized South Korean ferry Sewol, from which 87 are confirmed dead while 215 are still missing, as of 6 a.m. on April 21. He donated $100,000 of his own earlier through his HJ 99 foundation.

“I’ve donated money and held this charity event not to show off, but to do the least I could to support the families of the missing who are still waiting for their children,” Ryu wrote in his weekly column on Korean news website Naver. “As Koreans, when you live away from your country, you’re more sensitive about what happens there. I’m sure all Koreans who live abroad will agree.”

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