South Korean ferry accident

The way the South Korean ferry disaster is being handled in public is wrong. CNN reports that the South Korean President has stated that the “Actions of sunken ferry captain ‘akin to murder’”. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

What does she want to achieve? Revenge the dead on the captain and the crew? I can see how anger can be the reaction of those that have lost their loved ones, but does it have to be the reaction of the president? I would hazard a guess that contrary to the mental image I got from the president’s reported statement, there was no malice involved.

I can only imagine the sorrow felt by those close to the events. I claim to have an understanding of how South Koreans in general might feel, as a similar incident did occur here in Finland (see MS Estonia). What I can’t fathom is why is the press effectively asking the question “who is responsible?”, when they most definitely should be asking “why did this happen and how can the system be fixed?”.

An accident like this is almost certainly the result of several mistakes that should have been caught long before things got past the point where someone was in danger. The investigation needs to look past the mistakes that were made, it must find out why was it possible to make such mistakes.

Image 1. Emblem of KMST. According to its website: The balance scale symbolizes fair judgment. The navigating vessel depicts maritime safety, and blue waves represent clean and peaceful oceans

There seems to be a South Korean maritime accident investigation organisation that is actively investigating, for example here. It’s english name “Korea Maritime Safety Tribunal” does not have a good ring to it, but a quote from one of the investigation reports is right on the money:

“This investigation was conducted in conformity with the law to improve safety of shipping by investigating marine casualties and other incidents (Act on the Investigation and Inquiry into Marine Accidents). According to the said Act, the sole objective of this investigation is to prevent future accidents and malfunctions through the ascertainment of its causes and circumstances. This investigation does not serve to ascertain fault, liability or claims. This report should not be used in court proceedings or proceedings of the Maritime Board.”

This is the spirit in which the investigation must be approached. If blame is being dished out people will shut up and will not co-operate. Yet co-operation and change is what is needed to improve the system.