SEOUL – Families of the 304 people killed in the sinking of the Sewol ferry demanded on Monday a fresh investigation into the incident as thousands of South Koreans paid tribute to the victims on the fourth anniversary of the tragedy.
Around 1,000 family members of the victims participated in an event in Mokpo city on the southeastern coast around 100 kilometers from where the ferry sank on its way to Jeju island from Incheon. They gathered to protest against an investigation they consider biased and skewed to save those responsible for the incident.
Yoo Kyung-geun, the spokesperson of the families and mother of one of the school students who died in the shipwreck, told reporters the government should reveal why the Sewol sank and why they could not save the victims.
The ferry sank off Jindo island on April 16, 2014, killing 304 of the approximately 476 people it was carrying. Most of the dead were students on an end-of-term field trip.
An official investigation in 2014 established that the Sewol was illegally modified and carrying more than double the permissible load.
The investigation also revealed lapses by the crew in the evacuation process which hindered the rescue of more passengers.
The captain was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2015 for murder. According to Yonhap, a court said Lee Joon-seok had ordered passengers to remain where they were while he was among the first to be rescued.
The victims’ families on Monday rejected the earlier probe as it was carried out during the administration of former president Park Geun-hye, alleging that an in-depth investigation was not carried out in order to protect those responsible.
A number of ceremonies were held on Monday across the country, including two in the city of Ansan where the students’ high school is situated.
The city has erected an altar where around 10,000 people paid their respects, while the school held a separate event attended by 600 students and teachers.
President Moon Jae-in remembered the victims in a meeting with his advisers on Monday and promised to make South Korea a safer place, according to an official statement.
On Sunday, Moon pledged to uncover the truth of the Sewol, Yonhap said.