Will the South Korea’s “Park Vessel” Sink As the “Sewol” Sank?

Crowdfunding campaigns result in New York Times ad lambasting government for “lack of leadership, incompetence, and negligence”



Incensed at the ineptness of the South Korean government in connection with the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry, Korean-Americans pooled their money to voice their opinions in the New York Times.

The full-page advertisement, which ran on page 11 of the May 11 edition of the newspaper, is titled, “Bring the Truth to Light[:] Why are Koreans outraged by President Park Geun-hye?”

“More than three hundred lives were trapped in the ferry. Not one was rescued,” the ad reads. “The bungled rescue efforts demonstrated the lack of leadership, incompetence, and negligence of the Park Administration.”

In addition, the advertisement accused the South Korean media of failing to fulfill their proper role because they are under the government’s thumb.

“Criticism of President Park’s handling of the ferry disaster is being silenced by government censorship of South Korea’s mainstream media,” the ad said. “President Park’s behavior is reverting the country back towards South Korea’s authoritarian past. Koreans are outraged because they see democracy regressing.”

The ad continued by calling on the Korean government to immediately stop its “control of the media” and “manipulation of public opinion.”

The advertisement was prompted by a post added at the end of April to Missy USA, a website where Korean-American women swap tips about life in the US,.

“Day by day, the pain of thinking about the Sewol tragedy is grinding me down,” a member of the website wrote in the original post. “I would like to do something, even if it’s not much, for the powerless, for those without connections.”

The member proposed running an advertisement in the New York Times to denounce the government for its indolence, incompetence, and control of the media.

Right away, other members posted comments saying they would help out, and the members shared ideas on the message board about the ad text and design. They even set up an advertisement action team to sign the contract with the newspaper and to start raising money through the crowdfunding company IndieGogo.

The group needed US$52,030 to run the ad, but within 10 days they had raised around US$160,000. The majority of contributions were small, at US$5 or US$10 each, though other people gave up to US$300. 4,129 people took part in the fundraiser, sources said.

Korean-Americans gathered by the hundreds in Los Angeles on May 10 and in New York, Atlanta, and Houston on May 11 to hold memorial events and demonstrations for victims of the Sewol sinking. On May 18, they are planning to hold simultaneous demonstrations in all 50 US states.


By Park Hyun, Washington correspondent





Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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