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The Sewol Ferry disaster of 2014 in Korea was a catastrophic event fueled by greed, corruption, and lack of knowledge in emergency situations. 304 people died and 9 are still missing. There were significant changes made to the ship to make it more profitable including extra cabins for 114 passengers, art gallery, and removal of water balanced area to increase the cargo area from its recommended 987 tons to 2,142 tons. The typical captain of the ship was not present that day, causing the crew to navigate the ship through a risky and narrow channel on their own. The ship was not meant to make more than 5 degree turns, but when trying to avoid an unidentified vessel they made a 45 degree turn, resulting in the capsizing of the ferry. 3 disaster management actions that could have prevented this tragedy include better communication, proper emergency training of crew members, and having preparedness of the ship in case of emergency. The crew sent out wrongful information stating to remain on board until the coast guard came instead of jumping overboard. Furthermore, the captain and crew members were the first ones rescued instead of helping the rest of the people on board. The rescue operation had a lack of communication between the coast guard and other agencies resulting in unorganized and duplicating efforts. When the ship was capsized, the coast guard also failed to send scuba divers to save the remaining children and teachers (Cuadra, 2022). The captain of the ferry was sentenced to life in prison. Businessman Yoo was originally thought to have been a North Korean spy by the NIS. After the Sewol ferry incident, there was a nationwide manhunt for his arrest. They missed him in a house that had found a dead body, only to find out 40 days later that the body was Mr. Yoo’s (Suh, 2014).


Cuadra, J. (2022). Week 11 Video Lecture: Sewol Ferry Disaster. [Weekly Lecture Video]. Retrieved from Sewol Ferry Disaster Korea Video Lecture: (PAD4380.sp22) Disasters: From Shock to Recovery (

Suh, J. (2014). The Failure of the South Korean National Security State: The Sewol Tragedy in the Age of Neoliberalism. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 12(40), 1-10.


The Sewol Ferry disaster was one of the worst kinds. A case in which children were victimized not by an act of God or nature, but of human negligence and corruption. The Ferry was a repurposed ship being used for transportation of cargo and passengers. It was over constructed to accommodate extra passenger cabins and ballast water was drained to fit extra cargo (Cuadra, 2022). The ship was underway and staffed by minimally qualified crew. On the day of the incident the captain was not on the bridge. The vessel swerved to avoid other boat traffic. Due to being overloaded and improperly used, the boat started to capsize. The crew did not hail assistance in as timely of a manner as necessary (Kim, 2015). Moreover, the crew told the passengers to stay put which would prove to be terminally fatal decision for the youthful passengers. The vessel started taking on water by the time rescuers arrived on scene. The rescuers themselves were undertrained on how to perform their duties in open water. They failed to deploy scuba divers while the boat sank instead only able to spectate as the ship drug several school children down with it. A slow and delayed hail for assistance, coupled with a slow and delayed response by rescuers, compounded by inept and underqualified personnel in both categories, lent to this disaster being exponentially more tragic than it had to be. This epic failure by the shipping company and the captain of the vessel resulted in incarceration for many and sanctions elsewhere. This seemed to be case in which mismanaged social and economic vulnerabilities resulted in dire consequences for innocent victims.


Cuadra, J. (2022). Sewol Ferry Disaster Korea Video Lecture. Tallahassee:

Kim, S. K. (2015). The Sewol Ferry Disaster in Korea and Maritime. In T. a. Group, Ocean Development & International Law (pp. 345-358). Milton Park, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, UK: Routledge

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