On Wednesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in apologized to the families of the victims of the 2014 sinking of the ferry Sewol, and he admitted that the government bore a portion of the responsibility for the fatal accident.
"Even now, the people do not know why such an absurd accident took place . . . One thing for sure is that the government, no matter what the cause was, failed to prevent the tragedy. Though belated, I offer my apology and condolences on behalf of the government," he said, as reported by Yonhap.
Moon castigated the former government of Park Geun-hye for an "incompetent and irresponsible" response in the wake of the disaster, and for alleged attempts to "avoid and ignore" a fact-finding investigation. "The government even showed a cold side by avoiding and blocking efforts to find the truth," he said.
Park was impeached and removed from office in March. She was accused of unrelated corruption charges, but her administration's handling of the Sewol scandal played a role in the proceedings leading up to her ouster.
Moon has reopened an investigation into the cause of the sinking, a core demand of the victims' families, and he promised that his administration would work closely with Korea's legislature to complete it. The wreck of the Sewol has been raised – at great effort and expense – and in addition to the evidence it may provide, it has given salvors the opportunity to find four of nine missing victims of the sinking. Moon promised the families that the search for the final five victims would continue. 304 people perished or went missing in the accident, including hundreds of high school students.
Moon made his remarks in front of a group of 200 of the victims’ family members, who were bused to the Blue House (the seat of the South Korean government) for the occasion. After the Sewol accident, many of the same relatives had protested the response of the Park administration near the gates. This time, emphasized a government spokesman, they came in through the main entrance.