Frustrated protesters and distraught relatives of South Korea’s ferry disaster victims clashed Friday with police after they were prevented from marching on the president’s office in Seoul. Some 2,000 protesters, led by dozens of the victims’ relatives, attempted to break through police barricades.
Crowd leaders wore yellow jackets to pay homage to the victims. In mid-April, grieving friends and relatives donned similar yellow jackets during a memorial service held on the evening before the tragic event’s one-year anniversary. The also were protesting corrupt labor policies. No injuries were reported.
"We, the workers, will succeed in forcing the administration of (President) Park Geun-hye to stop its repression of labor," Han Sang-goon, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, said during one of the rallies, as reported by the New York Times Friday.
â€” ST Foreign Desk (@STForeignDesk) May 1, 2015
â€” Danny Kim 김동현 (@DKIM323) May 1, 2015
18:30. Scattered unions gather @ Jongno 1-ga X. Gwnhwmn Sq only 600m to the west, blocked by police buses. pic.twitter.com/OWhgF8gRsq
â€” Hae Ryun Kang (@Haekoko) May 1, 2015
Regular protests demanding further investigation into the sinking have taken place during the past year, and Lee Joon-seok, who was captain of the ferry during the disaster, was sentenced to life Tuesday. Fourteen other crew members were given sentences of a maximum of 12 years.
South Korean captain who last year left his ship before hundreds of passengers gets life in prison in appeal ruling http://t.co/uJuF9OhBUG
â€” Jeyup S. Kwaak 곽제엽 (@kwaakreports) April 28, 2015
â€” CBC News (@CBCNews) April 28, 2015
The ferry’s sinking was largely blamed on the ship’s overloading and illegal redesign, but it also exposed further problems within the South Korean government and media, which failed to place the blame where many believed it belonged – on government officials and related corruption.
The sinking of the ferry, the MV Sewol, took place during the morning of April 16, 2014, with 476 people aboard, most students from Danwom High School. The Japanese-built vessel sent a distress signal to nearby South Korean coast guard and naval ships, but small fishing boats and other commercial vessels arrived at the scene 30 minutes before official help came. One hundred and seventy-two people survived, and 304 passengers perished.