This article was in the South China Morning Post today.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Anger over ship deaths as relatives visit China
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Seoul
The families of South Korean sailors missing after an alleged “hit and run” incident on the high seas headed for China on Tuesday as anger grew over the tragedy.
The “Golden Rose” sank after colliding with the Chinese container ship “Jinsheng” in darkness and fog before dawn on Saturday off the port of Yantai in Shandong province.
Local media reports and foreign ministry officials have said the Jinsheng failed to stop after the accident and did not report it until seven hours later.
All 16 crew of the Golden Rose — seven from South Korea, eight from Myanmar and one from Indonesia — remain missing despite a Chinese search.
“The 21-member family delegation was to receive a briefing by Chinese maritime authorities at a Yantai hotel in a desire to clear all the suspicion,” an official at Bookwang Shipping, the ship’s operator, told AFP.
“They want to know as much as possible — why it happened, when China’s authorities received the initial accident report, how they started the search, what the Chinese ship captain says about it and so on.”
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the families were willing to visit the location of the sinking. He said he had no first-hand information about any delay in reporting the accident.
Seoul officials have asked China to check why the Jinsheng failed for hours to report the collision. Media reports said the delay fuelled suspicion that the Jinsheng had been trying to flee the scene.
Anger was brewing among the families of the missing.
“In my 15 years working as a crew member, I never heard a case in which a ship causing an accident kept going to where it was headed without doing anything to save the lives of people harmed,” Jeong Hae-Do, whose younger brother was aboard the Golden Rose, told the JoongAng Daily.
The Korea Herald said in an editorial: “If the Chinese ship involved in the collision had stopped to rescue the seamen in distress, and if the Chinese authorities had acted faster, the result would have been very different.”
Yonhap news agency has quoted unidentified foreign ministry officials as saying the Jinsheng may have violated the law of the sea in failing to give immediate and full assistance to those in danger.
Its crew only reported the accident to China’s maritime authorities seven hours later, they were quoted as saying.
Chinese rescuers have so far found only wreckage from the South Korean ship, which was laden with 5,900 tons of steel.
Fleeing the scene of an accident is an act of extreme cowardness. What’s even worse in this case, is that lives could have been saved if the Chinese ship would have stayed and searched for survivors. I can only hope that those responsible will be brought to justice. Given the reality here in China they probably won’t.