April 26, 2014 00:00 By Pravit Rojanaphruk The Nation
South Korean ambassador to Thailand Jeon Jae Man has thanked Thais for their support for bereaved families connected to South Korea's worst maritime disaster in its modern history.
Jeon said he hoped the Sewol ferry disaster would result in better safety precautions and readiness to decrease the chances of something like this being repeated – not just for Korea but other nations as well.
He spoke to Nation Multimedia Group chairman Suthichai Yoon during an exclusive interview at the South Korean embassy in Bangkok yesterday before Suthichai handed him a 20-metre-long cloth banner filled with messages of support.
The messages were written at an event organised by Nation TV last week called ‘Thailand Pray for South Korea”. It was held at Nation TV’s new Downtown Studio at the Siam Discovery shopping mall.
“I received many prayers from Thai friends,” Jeon said during the interview on Nation TV.
“They are a big help for us Koreans. Thank you for all the support.
“I cannot request more [support]. I think we can solve it ourselves.”
Asked what were the main lessons learnt from the disaster, Jeon said Koreans had learnt that accidents could happen “any place, any time”, so people have to be prepared.
Those who were in charge, such as the captain and the crew, must also be held responsible, he said, adding that people outside Korea could learn a lesson from the tragedy as well.
Jeon said more than 180 bodies had been retrieved so far but the search would continue as about a hundred were still missing.
The Ambassador acknowledged that some Koreans were angry at the government’s initial rescue effort but he said the government had mobilised every available resource and was discussing how such a tragedy could be prevented in the future.
The rescue operation was still going on, Jeon stressed.
“I don’t think they had enough preparation or drills [to respond to something like this],” said Jeon, referring to related agencies in South Korea.
Jeon said South Korea, known officially as the Republic of Korea, would have to learn to balance safety and economic growth.
“I don’t think our country is very much advanced [in regards to safety],” he said. “We made more progress in terms of economic growth.”