South Korea remembers Sewol ferry disaster victims
Grieving nation still awaits answers on first anniversary of tragedy that claimed more than 300 lives.

A year on from one of South Korea's worst maritime disasters, the nation marked a highly charged anniversary Thursday, with many relatives and protesters still furious with the government over the loss of 304 lives -- mostly high school students on a field trip.

The Sewol ferry sinking rocked the country to its core, exposing major concerns over public safety and corruption.

Much focus was therefore on President Park Geun-hye on this day of remembrance as she travelled southwest from Seoul to the harbor on Jindo Island, where Sewol pilgrims can gaze out at the waters beneath which the ferry lies wrecked.

Dressed in black as she addressed the nation, Park said her "heart aches" for the grieving families.

The president also vowed to salvage the vessel and to do all she can to recover the bodies of nine still missing victims, national news agency Yonhap reported.

Those are two of the key demands of family members, who are also calling for an independent investigation into the tragedy.

Dozens have already faced trial in the wake of the disaster, including the Sewol's captain who is serving 36 years in prison for jumping ship after hundreds had been told to stay below deck.

The delayed evacuation and failure on the part of rescuers to act more swiftly led to a total restructure of South Korea's coast guard and disaster response system.

But there remain lingering claims that endemic corruption involving public officials and business leaders contributed to the Sewol's fate, as the ferry became unstable and capsized after basic cargo safety practices were bypassed.

Public anger was reflected Thursday when Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo was blocked from visiting a memorial alter in Ansan, the home of the high school that lost so many of its students April 16, 2014.

Despite maintaining his innocence, Lee is currently facing growing calls to resign over bribery claims.

Close to 300 commemorative ceremonies were to be held nationwide -- most notably in Ansan and at Seoul's Gwanghwamun Square, an iconic site of protest filled with yellow ribbons for the last year.

Last Modified: 2015-04-16 11:05:40
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