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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 6)

2017/12/06 07:02

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Another sea disaster

Coast Guard needs better rescue system

Another maritime disaster has occurred just over three years after the Sewol ferry sinking which took more than 300 lives.

The Seonchang-1, a 9.77-ton recreational fishing vessel, was carrying 22 people when it collided with the 336-ton Myeongjin-15 oil tanker in West Sea waters near Yeongheung Island, Sunday.

First, it was reassuring to see the government taking responsibility for not being able to save the people's lives in an unforeseen disaster, unlike the previous Park Geun-hye administration. After the Sewol sinking, the Park administration repeatedly denied that Cheong Wa Dae was the control tower for crisis management. Moon's presidential office is different. "The government should be held accountable for protecting its citizens no matter what," Moon said during a meeting with his secretaries.

The Coast Guard's lackluster rescue operation, however, has left many wondering whether the nation has really learned anything from one of the nation's worst maritime disasters. As with the Sewol incident, the Coast Guard once again failed in its mission. Of 22 people on board the fishing boat, 15 people died and the rest have been rescued, but some sustained serious injuries.

The death toll is too high when considering the accident occurred only nine minutes after leaving land. The Coast Guard cited the strong currents and low temperature for the high death toll, but that sounds like a lame excuse. It is incomprehensible why it took more than 30 minutes after the accident was reported for a Coast Guard rescue boat to arrive at the scene. It also took more than an hour for a rescue helicopter to arrive. Given that swiftness is the key to any rescue operation, the Coast Guard's late response deserves to be criticized.

Its failed initial response to the accident shows it has not changed much since the Sewol disaster. The Coast Guard was abolished for its failed rescue operation during the Sewol sinking. It was re-established in July after President Moon Jae-in took office. "The Coast Guard must be fully responsible for all accidents that happen at sea," the President said during a ceremony to mark Coast Guard Day in September.

Since its relaunch, the Coast Guard has set up special rescue missions all over the country, but the boat collision shows they are not functioning properly.

Maritime accidents have been on the rise with more people boarding private fishing boats in recent years. The Coast Guard should check what is wrong with its rescue system and try to expedite its operations.

(END)

angloinfo.com