After the initial dust settles on the scene of a tragedy there comes the more protracted, but often less news-worthy, battle for answers and accountability. From the outset Korean authorities have come under fire from the public as well as government officials who claim that the immediate response to the incident was not good enough, and the accusations of incompetence continue to mount.

Korean passenger ferry the Sewol sank on April 16 while carrying hundreds of passengers, many of them school children. Reported death tolls vary, but according to Korean news site Airirang, the current total stands at 293 dead with 11 still missing.

At one point during the rescue operations, the rescue teams began injecting air into possible air pockets inside the sunken ship where it was thought there could still be survivors trapped. However, doubts have now been raised that the compressed air they were pumping in was in fact tainted with impurities such as fatal carbon monoxide. During the inquiry into the handling of the disaster, parliamentary member Kim Hyun-mi of the opposition party New Politics Alliance for Democracy disclosed evidence from divers involved in these operations. Independent news site News Tapa also reported that small-scale compressors were used which could only pump five cubic metres of air per minute.

The finger of blame for the accident itself has already been pointed at Captain Lee Jun-seok, who has been indicted on charges of murder. However, many people feel that it’s now time for the authorities to also take responsibility for their bungled approach to the rescue. It’s been commonly reported that the initial response to the sinking was slow and mismanaged, and that Korean authorities have been both incompetent and uncommunicative in the search for the missing passengers. The Prime Minister himself admitted to his government taking “inadequate measures” in response to the disaster when he resigned over the issue. More apologies are sure to be on the cards from here on out.

It’s understandable that the families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy need some kind of explanation and promise that the same mistakes will never be repeated in order to be able to move on. Hopefully the coming inquiries will prove an opportunity to learn lessons, rather than an exercise in passing off blame.

Source: 47News
Image: Vessel Finder