[Statement] Condolences for the Families of the Two Divers Killed While on Duty

Condolences for the Families of the Two Divers Killed While on Duty

We mourn for the two divers who died while searching the sunken ferry for victims of the Sewol accident.

(30 May 2014, Seoul) The Sewol ferry incident has claimed more innocent lives. First, a civilian diver who came to help with the search and rescue work on May 6th passed away during that operation. Now, another diver in a separate incident fell unconscious during the sunken ferry search and was taken to hospital; he died shortly afterwards (on May 30). This diver was a veteran crew member who had been involved in cutting open the hull of the sunken ferry. We are deeply saddened to hear that two more lives have been lost after the April 16th sinking of the Sewol ferry. We, People’s Committee on the Sewol Ferry Disaster, are mourning for the two divers who shared in our suffering and tried to rescue the missing victims at the risk of their own lives. We are praying for their bereaved families.

Divers working at the ferry accident site have faced intense pressure to retrieve as many of the missing as possible; they have assumed all the risks and burdens of this operation on their own. We believe that the South Korean government bears the ultimate responsibility to minimize the risks involved with the overall search operation and should provide for the safety of all divers. It has recently been reported that no medical staff were standing by on May 6th to assist the divers on the barge where the divers rest and resupply; this was when Lee Gwang-wook, one of the civilian divers, gave his life while performing his sorrowful duty. The government should set up measures to ensure that divers get enough rest after the underwater search and have adequate medical assistance available.

All Koreans, not just the families of the victims, have been shocked by the government’s incompetence and lack of response to the Sewol ferry accident. A private firm, not a government agency, was in charge of the rescue operations, and those first critical moments were wasted. Even after the government set up a disaster management task force, individual divers were forced to take on all the risks of the operation without proper support. To make matters worse, President Park Geun-hye’s sudden announcement that the Coast Guard would be disbanded intensified the confusion at the scene, stirring up resentment among the families of the missing. Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook also made highly inappropriate remarks, such as that the “divers were being paid per body”. These remarks not only hurt the bereaved but also insulted these divers, hurting their morale. The government has created an environment of profound distrust by resorting to temporary expedients.

The families of the missing and the victims of the ferry disaster have suffered enough. They are now overwrought and concerned about the divers’ health and safety. The authorities should ensure the search operations are prompt and complete; they need to guarantee the safety of all divers. We, People’s Committee on the Sewol Ferry Disaster, urge the government to make sincere efforts to end the suffering with the tragedy that began April 16th.

Korean Statement >> 세월호 수색 민간 잠수사 두 분의 명복을 빕니다

Translated by Kyungsun Park, Volunteer
Proofread by Ms. Kelly Lee, Volunteer