Almost three weeks after the sinking of the Sewol ferry, a deep sense of sadness persists across the country. Close to 300 people died, most of them students from Danwon High School, and the loss of so many young lives is stirring popular anger against the Park administration as it struggles to respond.
I was in Ansan just days after the accident, and I photographed a vigil held there as people held out hope for survivors. After the initial rescue, no survivors were found, and dive teams continue to pull bodies from the sunken ship. Close to 300 people died, most of them teenagers from Ansan.
The Sewol tragedy is truly that. In the minutes after the ship began to list, the captain and crew refused to order an evacuation, and instead instructed passengers to remain where they were. Most of the students who died were on lower decks, and were trapped as the water began to pour in. The captain and most of the crew, meanwhile, were some of the first to be evacuated as rescue boats arrived.
Almost immediately, even before divers started pulling bodies from the ship, allegations of negligence, ineptitude, and insincerity on the part of the government began to arise. Now, a popular tide of anger is growing against president Park Geun-hye and her administration as people wonder if pro-business policies led to lax oversight, which in turn led to the disaster.
There were several demonstrations yesterday in Seoul, and in the evening around 5,000 people converged at Cheongye Plaza near the Blue House for a candle light vigil and protest.