Seoul (AsiaNews) – With the sinking of the Sewol, "we not only have lost loved ones, but we have lost our best values, our consideration for others, our national pride, and – most importantly – our faith in others and in society.” In view of this, “We must reflect on such failures and repent. And this does not mean to be lenient towards those who did wrong,” said Card Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, archbishop of Seoul, in his homily during a memorial Mass marking the first anniversary of the ferry’s sinking.
More than 300 people died in the disaster, mostly high school students on a trip. Yet, despite widespread demands, the government has not yet agreed to an official inquiry into the disaster. Several analysts and sources told AsiaNews that this omission is due to fears that it might reveal business and political ties between the Sewol owner and the government.
In fact, in the trial against the ship's captain and members of the crew in November 2014, the court convicted 15 defendants, sentencing them to prison terms ranging from 20 to 36 years. However, the company that owned the Sewol was not held responsible.
The cardinal himself spoke on this issue. "The government,” he said, “should conduct a national investigation to find the culprits and the causes that led to the tragedy. We need immediate political action to solve the problems that arose and dispel the confusion surrounding the issue."
Even the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, led by Mgr Lazzaro You Heung-sik, said that the truth about the incident should be found.
"We need a proper investigation into what happened,” the bishop of Daejeon said in a message sent to the country’s dioceses and all the faithful, “because without it we cannot move forward on a path of true forgiveness and reconciliation. The state still has to do its part. There is growing distrust in the government. We need honesty and sincerity."
The country stopped today to remember the victims. A poignant ceremony took place in the port of Ansan near where the ferry sank. The parents of the students shouted the name of their loved one and threw a rose into the sea. In Seoul, a commemorative plaque was unveiled.
In a speech, President Park Geun-hye said she would take "the necessary steps to salvage the ship at the earliest possible date" to the start the healing process.
The families of the ferry disaster victims refused a compensation package proposed by the government and held a protest in Seoul's Gwanghwamun Plaza. In a statement, the families said, "We will not give up until investigators get to the bottom of the disaster."
The same families had met with Pope Francis before the beatification Mass of 134 Korean martyrs in the square last August 16, 2014.
“Families, there is nothing sadder than to lose the people we love the most,” said Card Yeom at the end of his homily. “Today, our prayers and thoughts are with the victims and their families. May the Lord give them strength and comfort to deal with their pain."