Korean ferry survivors return to school, vow not to forget
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[June 25, 2014]
By Ju-min Park
ANSAN South Korea (Reuters) - Holding
hands as they walked through the school gates, some fighting back tears,
75 children who survived South Korea's worst maritime disaster in 20
years, returned to class on Wednesday vowing to remember their lost
Wailing parents of the 250 children who did not survive, when a
ferry taking them on a school trip capsized and sank, greeted the
children outside the Danwon Highschool.
Some grieving parents held signs, one of which read: "We love you."
"Grownups are constantly telling us to forget and cheer up," an
18-year-old boy who spoke for the survivors said, fighting back
tears. "But we will remember and recollect our friends. Because not
forgetting them is what we can do at best. Just as we will remember
them, please don't forget them."
Two months after the Sewol ferry sank and killed more than 300
passengers, the surviving children were brought to school in five
buses under a police escort.
Many were wearing bracelets engraved with the message, "Remember
0416," and all were accompanied by their parents.
On April 16, the Sewol ferry sharply listed and capsized on a
routine overnight journey from Incheon, the port city one hour drive
from the children's hometown, to the vacation island of Jeju,
overloaded with cargo and sailing too fast on a turn.
Most of the 325 students who listened to the order to stay in the
cabins were trapped as the vessel sank and paid for their obedience
with the lives.
"Our friends and teachers had to leave us because of irresponsible
and selfish adults," said one of the students before going to class.
The 15 surviving crew members are on trial, with four including the
captain charged with homicide, amid a national outcry of anger after
video footage showed them fleeing the vessel as it began to list
after telling passengers to stay put.
The government of President Park Geun-hye has also been bitterly
criticized for the slow and ineffective handling of the disaster and
the incompetence displayed in the rescue operation.
The prime minister has resigned and Park has announced the breakup
of the Coast Guard citing incompetence.
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A massive manhunt has failed to capture the man seen as the
effective owner of the company that operated the ferry. Yoo Byung-un
is wanted on charges of embezzlement stemming from his control over
a web of business interests owned by his sons, including Chonghaejin
Marine, the ferry operator.
For the survivors and their parents, the two months since the
sinking has been a painful time of soul searching, debating whether
to transfer to other schools.
But they ultimately decided to return to the familiar surrounds of
Danwon Highschool and try and heal the emotional scars, receiving
therapy at the school, said Park Suck-soon, the father of one of the
"The kids are coming back to school, carrying the terrible
experience of having gone through the ship sinking and the
evacuation and losing their friends and teachers," he said, adding
"Don't forget April 16".
(Editing by Jack Kim and Michael Perry)
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