South Korea Ferry Disaster

Boy Who Raised Korea Ferry Alarm Had No Time to Call Parents

SEOUL - The frightened boy who first raised the alarm that a South Korean ferry with hundreds on board was sinking did not have time to call his parents, his father said, and was found dead not wearing a life jacket.

The boy, with the family name of Choi, called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.

The Sewol ferry sank on April 16 on a routine trip south from the port of Incheon to the traditional holiday island of Jeju. More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers from one high school on a field trip, have died or are missing and presumed dead.

The children were told to stay put in their cabins, where they waited for further orders. They paid for their obedience with their lives. The confirmed death toll on Saturday was 187.


Choi's body was found on Wednesday, a week after the sinking, at the back of the fourth deck.

"I was so angry at the reality that all I can do is look at the sea and pray, but I am so grateful that he has been found and he is back," his father told the Kukmin Ilbo newspaper. "If only he had been wearing a life jacket, I wouldn't be this heartbroken... He didn't have time to call his mum and dad... He reported it to 119 and he's back now. I am so proud of him."

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members who abandoned ship have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an "excessive change of course without slowing down".

Prosecutors on Saturday raided multiple places including the office of an accountant who deals with Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., the company that operated the Sewol. Prosecutors have also raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, 73, the head of a family that owns the Chonghaejin. They seized another ferry run by the company and found that life rafts and escape chutes were not working properly.

Yoo, a photographer who also goes by the name of AHAE, expressed his "profound sadness" at the sinking, a statement released by Ahae Press, which markets his work said, stressing that Yoo did not have any stake in the company.

"While the Korean authorities investigating the ferry tragedy have issued a travel ban for 30 to 40 officials associated with Chonghaejin ownership, including members of the Yoo family, this blanket approach is standard for investigations by Korean regulators," the statement said.

- Reuters