[Marxism] On the Korean Ferry Tragedy

michael a. lebowitz mlebowit at sfu.ca
Tue May 13 11:07:28 MDT 2014

*The Sewol Ferry Tragedy as a Warning:
Neoliberal Deregulation and Lack of Democratic Accountability in South Korea
*May 7, 2014

We express our deepest sorrow and condolence for the families of victims 
and Danwon High School students who have lost their loved ones in the 
sinking of the Sewol Ferry on April 16th. We sincerely hope that the 
missing passengers, whose death is not yet confirmed, return to their 
families as soon as possible.

The tragedy of the Sewol Ferry sank the heart of not only the Koreans 
but also everyone in the world to the deepest of shock and grief, as the 
world helplessly watched hundreds of lives drown to death because of the 
combination of corruption, ineptitude, and irresponsibility pervasive in 
today's Korea. The ferry sank under the weight of deregulation and 
privatization: the previous administration relaxed the regulations on a 
ferry's life and safety, allowing the Chonghaejin Maritime 
Transportation, the Sewol's owner, to import an aged ship and add more 
room for passengers and cargos; the safety inspection and the 
certification of the ship were left to private entities formed or 
heavily influenced by ferry owners; the Park administration allowed the 
Chonghaejin to hire temporary workers, including the captain, at a low 
wage and without adequate safety training; and the government turned a 
blind eye to the illegal overloading of the ferry. Throughout the 
tragedy, not only did the Park Geun-Hye administration fail to mobilize 
its resources to rescue the passengers in a timely manner: the Coast 
Guard never issued an order to rescue the passengers, but only a call to 
salvage the ferry; and it relied on a particular private company for the 
rescue and salvage, and protected the company's monopolistic operation. 
The Park Geun-Hye administration also walked away from democratic 
accountability by abandoning its responsibility to protect the people, 
systematically controlling the media, and mobilizing the police to 
isolate and surveillance the victims' families. Many Koreans, watching 
the government's betrayal, began to raise serious questions about 
whether they could trust the current government with their lives.

We, the undersigned academics and scholars, share Koreans' sense of 
governance crisis in South Korea. Compelled by a sense of urgency that a 
similar tragedy can occur again unless the problems exposed by the 
tragedy are immediately and adequately addressed, we demand the following:


Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Home:   Phone 604-689-9510
Cell: 604-789-4803

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