South Korea on Saturday marked the second anniversary of a deadly ferry disaster with official and cultural events designed to pay tribute to the victims and raise awareness of public safety issues.
Exactly two years ago, the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol sank off South Korea's southwestern coast, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing, many of them high school students on a field trip. The tragedy left a deep scar in South Korean society and politics as many argued that more lives could have been saved had the government properly coordinated rescue operations in the early hours of the sinking.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn offered his condolences to the families of the victims, saying the government is doing all it can to strengthen its public safety system.
"Efforts to improve safety must continue until everyone feels that our country is a safe society," he said at a ceremony marking the "Day of Public Safety," which was designated two years ago after the tragedy.
Hwang said the government has revamped its disaster response system by expanding special rescue teams, increasing rescue equipment and modifying safety manuals.
The ministers for education, public administration and maritime affairs also headed to separate commemorative events in the cities most affected by the disaster -- Ansan, home of the high school that lost hundreds of students and teachers in the sinking; Incheon, the port city the ferry departed from; and Jindo, near the site of the sinking.
Other ranking officials planned to inspect safety at a ferry terminal and a railway control center.
Civic groups and the victims' families were scheduled to hold a cultural event in central Seoul later in the day where thousands of citizens were expected to gather to commemorate the anniversary with poems, concerts and other performances.
The government has set up a joint altar in Ansan where visitors can pay tribute to the victims. (Yonhap)