ABDuLHAMIT – What if Soma disaster had been in South Korea?

What if Soma disaster had been in South Korea?“As the president responsible for the lives and safety of South Koreans, I offer my sincere apology for all the suffering. The ultimate responsibility for the poor response to this accident lies with me.

”The person who spoke these words on television last week, while in tears, was in fact the president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye. And what she was doing was shouldering responsibility for a terrible ferry accident which occurred a month ago in which 304 people — mostly students — lost their lives.

Park, who announced that the Korean Coast Guard — which had failed to rescue any of the citizens from the ferry — had been disbanded entirely, also told her citizens that a new monument to those who had perished in the accident would be built and that moving forward, April 16 would be set aside as a day to contemplate safety measures in every area of life.It was a big shock to witness South Korea — which has developed into one of the leading high-tech economies in Asia despite being one of the poorest countries in its region not so long ago — having a ferry that was run so dangerously or not being able to prevent the loss of so many lives.

Quite naturally, it was not only the families and friends of those who died in this accident, but also all Koreans — young and old — who were angry and upset in the wake of this incident.The list of criticisms that emerged after the accident was very long: the mistaken actions of the captain and crew who caused the disaster to be even bigger and who abandoned the sinking ship the failure of the company who owned the ferry to comply with pre-existing safety laws the public offices which had failed to regularly regulate and supervise both the ferry and its regularly scheduled trips and on top of everything, a media accused of ignoring and overlooking the role of the government and the president considered responsible in this business.

And so, in the wake of the sinking of the ferry, Korean citizens, opposition parties and civil society organizations all worked together make sure these criticisms reached their targets.In fact, right after the ferry disaster, an investigation was initiated.

The captain and his crew were accused of murder while the CEO of the company that owned the boat (who was himself arrested) was formally accused of causing a large number of deaths. Prosecutors started a formal investigation based on charges such as tax evasion, bribery and negligence of duty against the owner of the company, Yoo Byung-eon, and his son.

While the ferry’s legal load limit was 987 tons, it was carrying 3,600 tons at the time of the accident. This raised significant speculation that public officials had ignored the violation of weight limits because of bribery.

In fact, the sudden changes made to the ferry’s route, as well as the excess weight, were listed as probable causes of this terrible accident. And based on these charges, prosecutors carried out a raid on the public offices which bore the responsibility of supervising and overseeing the safety of this (and other) large ferry boats.

On April 17, the owner of the Sewol ferry, Chonghaejin Marine Company, formally apologized. And in the meantime, the management in charge of registering and inspecting ships resigned en masse.

While all of this business concerned a private company with no connection to the state, the proper running of this organization and the timely inspection of the ship, not to mention the rescue operation, they all fall into the area of management and political responsibilities. This is why the government was placed so squarely into the targets of criticism In fact, one government MP, Chung Mong-joon, was forced to resign because of his own criticism of those blaming the government in all this.

And when one state television commentator said “Well, those who died in this ferry sinking are not nearly as many as those who die in traffic accidents,” serious protests began in front of the presidential palace.In addition, public trust in the president fell overnight from around 70 percent to around 40 percentLater on April 27, Prime Minister Jung Hong-won resigned because they were unable to prevent the accident and had failed to act quickly enough.

Apologizing to the families of those lost in the ferry boat accident, Jung said “the cries of the families of those missing still keep me up at night.” It is important to point out that in none of this were there any kicks or slaps, nor were there attempts to call the incident “fate” or “to be expected,” as was seen in Turkey in the wake of SomaBack in the 1950s, South Korea was worse off than Turkey but it has now become a country with a per capita income of around $30,000 a year The country is now besieged by debates over just what it was that had been neglected and could have caused such a disaster, especially in light of the fact that South Korea is ranked 12th on the United Nations human development index, compared to Turkey’s 90th place.

More perspective: While we are ranked 134th in terms of press freedom, they are in 69th place. In other words, apparently it is possible to enjoy economic development alongside both freedoms and human development!Yes, two different disasters, though both similar in terms of the loss of human lives.

In one, 304 people lost their lives in the sinking of a ferry. In the other, 301 died in a mining accident.

But in thinking about the differences in the reactions to these disasters in the countries in which they took place, you can answer the question posed in the headline all on your own.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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