Asia

South Korea ferry survivors return to school

  • 25 June 2014
  • From the section Asia

More than 70 high school students in South Korea who survived the Sewol ferry disaster in April have returned to school.

The students had been attending therapy sessions and classes at a special facility since the incident.

Weeping relatives of dead students lined the road and hugged some of them.

The 16 April sinking of the Sewol ferry left more than 300 dead or missing, many of whom were students.

A total of 245 out of the 325 Danwon High School students on board died, with a handful still missing.

Clad in black-and-white uniforms, the survivors walked in a solemn procession with their parents to their school in Ansan, near Seoul, on Wednesday.

A large sign which read "We pray the dead will rest in peace" was hung at the gate of the school.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The students have been attending therapy sessions and classes at a special facility since the incident.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Relatives of the suvivors' dead schoolmates lined the road and hugged some of them.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Captain Lee Joon-seok and 14 crew members are currently on trial
Image copyright AP
Image caption Coast Guard officials said they did not realise until later that the people they first rescued on 16 April were crew members

The incident sparked outrage in South Korea and led to a period of national mourning. President Park Geun-hye has apologised for the initial response from government agencies and has vowed to reform the bureaucracy, as well as a drive to stamp out corruption.

The survivors' return to school comes amid two court hearings, one for the ferry's crew and the other for officials from the company that owned the ship.

Captain Lee Joon-seok and 14 crew members have been accused of prioritising their own safety over that of passengers, and also of causing more deaths by instructing people to remain in their cabins instead of evacuating the ship.

The students who survived are due to testify next month for that trial, and will testify by closed-circuit television from a courtroom in Ansan.

In a separate trial, Chonghaejin Marine's chief Kim Han-sik and four employees are accused of overloading the ship and neglecting safety training for the crew.

On Wednesday, opposition lawmakers met the Coast Guard and rebuked the agency for its poor initial response, according to news agency Yonhap.

The lawmakers are members of a special parliamentary committee investigating the tragedy.

Coast Guard officials said at the meeting that they did not realise until later that the people they first rescued were crew members.

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