The Sewol Tragedy: 10 Things That Could Have Changed Everything

Any one of these things could have saved many lives on the ferry Sewol

Ferry Sewol sinking near Jindo, Korea (April 2014)
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Titanic sank on April 15th, 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean. It was another April 15th in the North Atlantic Ocean (April 16th in Korea) when the Korean ferry Sewol began to sink near Jindo, South Korea. Exactly a century and two years later, another tragedy was taking place in a different body of water.

Many Koreans think everything comes at once, meaning bad things happen all at the same time. This is certainly true regarding the South Korean ferry Sewol. So many little things could have saved lives of many people, the majority of them being Korean high school students. Here is a list of ten things that may have led to this terrible tragedy.

1. The Missing Captain

The real captain for the ferry Sewol was on vacation at the time and not on board. Thus, another captain took on the job. There is a good chance that if the original captain were on the ferry, nothing would have gone wrong. Of course, no one could have predicted the future.

2. The Weather

The ferry was supposed to take off at 6:30 pm on April 15th, Korea Standard Time. But it did not begin sailing until late at night due to heavy fog. It is a possibility that Sewol was not supposed to depart even at that time because of bad weather.

3. The Ferry

The ship was originally made and used in Japan since 1994. In 2012, a Korean company bought the old ferry and named it Sewol. ("Sewol" means the passing of time.) It was one of the largest commercial ships available in South Korea and could carry almost a thousand passengers. It is another possibility that the ship was just too outdated and broken, which may have led to capsizing.

4. The Path

Sewol was going from one end (Incheon) to another end (Jeju) of South Korea. Almost reaching the destination, the crew took a path among others that is known to be dangerous. It is very likely that another route would have avoided all of this tragedy.

5. The Cargo

The ship was carrying 475 people and a massive load of cargo as well. One source, Pressian, reports that 1157 tons of cargo was on the ferry Sewol. One of the possible scenarios is the cargo shifting to one side of the ferry, which would have made things a lot worse.

6. The Crew and a Different Captain

Another captain was filling in for the main captain of Sewol, who was on vacation. Nonetheless, the substitute turns out that he also has had a lot of experience as a captain. So how could something like this happen? Unfortunately, the captain was not at the helm when the ferry began to sink. Instead, it was a 25-year-old crew member with only one-year of experience who was steering. So what did this "captain" do? Apparently, not much. He was one of the very first to abandon the ship.

7. The Delayed Call for Help

The captain or someone on the crew decided to request for help. But the request went to a wrong place. A right call was made at a later time. Who made the call? The captain? The crew? Neither. It was a passenger.

8. The Announcements

This so-called captain actually could have done a better job if he just did nothing. But he told the passengers, either directly or indirectly, to not move and stay put. If everyone made a run to the top of the ferry when capsizing first began, all of them would have been rescued by now. It is unclear at this time why the announcements were made. It was obvious that the ferry was sinking. Staying inside at the bottom of the ship would have been one of the worst things to do. One survivor later told a reporter that the people who "did not listen" were the ones rescued.

9. The Survival Capsules

There were enough survival capsules for everyone on the ferry. The white capsules were supposed to open up automatically in case of capsizing. But all of them, except two, did not open.

10. The Teachers

Of course, it is not fair to blame the teachers. There is no way they saw this coming. No one did. Some of them died in this misfortune. At the same time, there was no lecture on safety given out by the school prior to the field trip.

Last Words

268 people are still missing at the time of this writing. It is very much possible that some of them are still alive inside the ferry, assuming there is enough air. The mission for rescue should not stop until everyone is found, no matter how long it may take.


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