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4.16. Statement by the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on the 10th Anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy
Date : 2024.04.22 11:35:25 Hits : 336

4.16. Statement by the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on the 10th Anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy

 

Recalling the promises and resolutions made 10 years ago, we must come together to realize a safe society

 

On the 10th anniversary of the April 16 Sewol Ferry Disaster (hereinafter referred to as the "Sewol disaster"), the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea again expresses his deepest condolences to the bereaved families and victims.

 

The Sewol disaster on April 16, 2014 was a tragic event that left the entire nation in mourning and shock, and a social catastrophe that unleashed the nation's desire to realize a safe society. On this 10th anniversary, we must remember the victims, relive the pain and hurt of that day, and reflect on how much we have changed since then to prevent such tragedies from happening again in the future.

 

Since that day, we have moved forward, albeit slowly, thanks to the promises and pledges that people wrote on yellow slips of paper: "We will not forget," "We will remember," and "We will act together". Social disasters and catastrophes, once seen as "unfortunate and unavoidable personal events," are now seen as something that state, local governments, and corporations must take responsibility for preventing and responding to.

 

In addition, the sense of victims' rights has been gradually strengthened and a consensus has been formed that providing assistance to victims, which was once considered a compassionate measure, is a "natural right of victims"; victims have been supporting each other in solidarity; and, most hopefully, a sense of citizenship is maturing to advocate and support them.

 

I would like to express my deepest respect and gratitude to the families and victims of the Sewol disaster for always being with us in this process of change. However, it is also true that I feel a sense of regret and sadness at the same time.

 

Over the past decade, three special investigative bodies have been established to uncover the truth about the Sewol disaster, but they have not been able to clearly identify the causes that led to the sinking of the ferry and the deaths of 304 people during the rescue operation. Both the lifeboat crews on the scene and the leadership of the Coast Guard have been absolved of responsibility for the failure to rescue the passengers. We must seriously reflect on why we have not been able to get to the truth of the Sewol disaster despite multiple investigations, and whether the current system, which has failed to punish those responsible to the satisfaction of the people, is just.

 

There has been a lack of progress in fundamental institutional improvements to prevent the recurrence of social disasters and catastrophes and to build a safe society. Efforts to enshrine the people's right to security in the Constitution, to enact a basic law on life and security, and to establish an independent body specializing in the investigation of major social disasters and catastrophes have not borne fruit.

 

If we do not draw lessons and make changes from the past disasters and catastrophes, we will continue to live with the risk of similar disasters and catastrophes, and we will inherit a dangerous society to the next generation. The 10.29. Itaewon disaster, the Osong underpass disaster and others are like a report card showing how far we have come in the past decade since the Sewol disaster in building a safe society.

 

On the 10th anniversary of the Sewol disater, I once again urge the government and the National Assembly to gather more strength and wisdom to improve basic systems to prevent further social disasters and catastrophes in our society. It is time for all of us to work together in solidarity with all those who seek a safe society, and to remember the promise and pledge we made 10 years ago that we will make our society free of heartbreaking victims like yours. We will never forget the victims and survivors of the Sewol disater.


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