More than 30,000 South Koreans joined a candlelight protest on 17 May to demand that the right wing Park Geun-hye government take responsibility for the Sewol ferry disaster.
The Sewol capsized on 16 April with 476 people on board. However, due to a botched rescue attempt by government authorities, only 170 people survived.
One month after the tragedy, public anger has continued to grow as corruption within the shipping industry has gained broader public attention.
The protest was the latest in a series of demonstrations that have taken place since late April and was just one of several anti-government protests. More than 200 people were arrested at various events over the weekend.
On Saturday afternoon more than 6,000 teachers held their own action. The teachers, members of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, demanded an independent investigation.
One teacher told the Korean Herald: “Park’s excessive focus on deregulation was why the entrepreneurs paid no attention to the pricey safety measures. The president is using her unparalleled powers to protect the large corporations’ profits, not the lives of citizens.”
Two days earlier, on 15 May, more than 15,000 teachers released a statement critical of Park and her government. In response, the Education Ministry threatened disciplinary action, accusing teachers of violating laws that prohibit collective action unrelated to their jobs.
The threats come on the back of the ministry ordering education offices around the country to identify and take action against 43 teachers who posted messages on the Presidential Office website. They called on Park to step down and accused the government of trying to censor the media in order to prevent critical reports.
Former newsroom chief Kim Si-gon of KBS, one of South Korea’s three main television broadcasters, has also publicly accused the Presidential Office of attempting to prevent critical reports being aired about the bungled rescue.
According to Kim, KBS president Gil Hwan-young had ordered reporters not to be too critical in their reporting, citing orders from the Blue House (the executive office and residence of the president).
On 19 May, journalists from the network staged a one-day strike denouncing the interference.