Asia

Sewol disaster: Parents march over independent inquiry

Grieving parents of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster, wearing white mourning robes with shaved heads Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The grieving parents are marching to the capital Seoul to demand the inquiry is truly independent

More than 200 relatives of the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster are marching to press the South Korean government for an independent inquiry into the accident.

Most of those marching to the capital from their hometown of Ansan are parents of the 250 children killed.

They are also demanding that the sunken ferry be raised to recover the bodies of nine missing victims.

Many shaved their heads in protest and wore mourning white.

It is nearly a year since the overloaded Sewol sank, killing more than 300 people.

The disaster was blamed on illegal redesigns, corrupt management and an inexperienced crew.

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Media captionHow South Korea ferry disaster unfolded

The government has said it will give $380,000 (£256.000; €353,000) in compensation for each of the nearly 250 students who died.

The boat's captain has been jailed for 36 years for gross negligence and the government has promised an independent investigation.

However, relatives have accusing the government of trying to influence that review by appointing officials to key posts on the 17-member inquiry committee.

Committee chairman Lee Suk-Tae, one of the members nominated by the families, said that the "attempt to appoint maritime ministry officials, who should be the very subject of our own investigation... is completely unacceptable".

"We need full political independence to get to the bottom of this tragedy and to prevent accidents like this from happening again."

A statement from the victims' families said that "the priority for the government should not be monetary compensation but getting to the bottom of the incident, salvaging the wreckage and finding the last missing persons".

Sewol victims

  • 325 students aged between 16 and 17 from Danwon High School, south of Seoul, were on a school trip to the holiday island of Jeju when the ferry sank
  • Only about 70 survived - many had obeyed orders to stay put as the ferry listed
  • Some of the survivors later testified that they had to float out of cabins and most of the crew members did not attempt to help them
  • At least three crew members died trying to evacuate passengers.

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