President Obama (left) and South Korean President Park (right in blue) held a moment of silence for the victims of the Sewol Ferry disaster. Image: Flickr user Republic of Korea

US Expresses Sincere Condolences Over Sewol Ferry Tragedy


The US has expressed its sincere condolences to Korean families suffering through the Sewol ferry tragedy that occurred on April 16. US President Barack Obama represented Americans in offering support for Koreans during a visit to Seoul, while other Americans have shown support in other ways.

Ben Rhodes, assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, stated that during President Obama’s visit to South Korea he would find a way to help Koreans in this difficult time. The president observed a moment of silence before his talk with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. He expressed his deep sympathy for the people of an ally country, and also as a father who has two daughters of his own. President Obama presented a memorial flag and a magnolia tree to honor the victims and their families. The flag “reflects our deep condolences, but our great pride in calling you an ally and a friend,” Obama said during the talk with President Park. The flag flew over the White House on the day the accident happened. The magnolia tree represents beauty, and the renewal of spring, and is dedicated to the students who perished. The tree from the White House south lawn is now planted in the yard of Danwon High School, where many of the victims were students.

The Biola University Chorale, from southern California, visited with and sang for families at Jindo who are waiting their loved ones to come back. The choral group sang Psalm 23 in Korean, as well as a traditional Korean song. The group was set to hold a two-week performance tour of South Korea, but changed their plans in light of the tragedy.

Official US assistance to Korea during the tragedy has included the USS Bonhomme Richard, which helped search for victims of the sunken ferry in waters around Jindo Island; USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50), which arrived on April 29th from Thailand and joined the search team; and the US National Transportation Safety Board, which has offered their support to investigate the cause of the tragedy.

Jieun Choi is an Asan Academy Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.