Seoul, April 16 (IANS) South Korea on Tuesday commemorated the fifth anniversary of the Sewol ferry disaster that had left 304 people dead in 2014, most of them high school students, who were on an end-of-course trip.
The main ceremony, which was attended by 5,000 people, was held in a park in the Ansan locality – 80 km south of Seoul – where most of the students had lived.
In a separate ceremony, a group of 24 families of students of the Danwon High School, who had died in the tragedy, travelled to the place where the ferry sank, some 70 km away from the southern island of Jindo, Efe news reported.
They called out names of the victims and offered flowers into the sea in remembrance, according to Yonhap news agency.
Another ceremony in Incheon – south of Seoul – was held in memory of 41 other victims of the tragedy.
On Jeju island, where the ferry was headed when it sank, a memorial ceremony was held, and later a procession of mourners walked to the port where the ferry should have been moored.
“I renew my commitment to preventing the same tragedy from being repeated again. Thorough efforts will be made to ascertain the truth about the tragedy and punish those responsible,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a message that was later tweeted by his office.
An investigation committee in 2014 had said that the accident took place due to an illegal redesign of the 6,825 tonne vessel along with overloading of the cargo and human errors.
The investigation also stressed that the poor response of the crew, whose captain was sentenced in 2015 to life imprisonment, had prevented a greater number of passengers from being rescued.
However, many families of the victims claimed that the committee was influenced by then President Park Geun-hye’s administration. They had also accused the committee of avoiding a rigorous investigation to protect those responsible for the tragedy.
Later reports had shown that the South Korean presidential office had tampered with protocol to inform Park about the incident, who took several hours to make a public appearance after the incident.
The former President was ousted due to corruption charges and is currently serving a 32-year prison term on two charges.