Khamis, 24 April 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

Empty spaces mark Korean school tribute for missing ferry victims

Posted: 24 Apr 2014 09:02 PM PDT

ANSAN, South Korea/SEOUL (Reuters) - A floral tribute to the children who drowned in a sinking South Korean ferry features photographs of the victims in their school uniforms, while lines of empty spaces wait to be filled with photos once those still missing are confirmed dead.

The pictures, flowers and spaces are banked up the entire wall of a gymnasium near Danwon High School in Ansan, on the outskirts of Seoul.

"There are too many pictures, way more than I thought," said crying university student Jung Sun-a, 24. "And they are too young in these pictures. I really hope they can fulfil their dream in the next life. And I hope the missing kids will also come back to their parents as soon as possible."

One wailing old woman shouted out for her granddaughter, Lee Bomi.

"Bomi is still in darkness. She hasn't come home yet. What are we going to do? I came here to ask you. She is still in dark waters. What am I supposed to do?"

The Sewol ferry, weighing almost 7,000 tons, sank on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern holiday island of Jeju. Investigations are focused on human error and mechanical failure.

More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers from Danwon High School have died or are missing and presumed dead after the April 16 disaster.

The confirmed death toll on Friday was 181.

School classes resumed on Thursday in sombre mood. In the classrooms of the missing, friends posted messages on desks, blackboards and windows, in the days after disaster struck, asking for the safe return of their friends.

One note was stuck to the window of an empty classroom in the days when hopes for finding the passengers alive were fading fast. It was addressed to a girl called Si-yeon.

"Si-yeon, It's me, your oppa (male friend). I miss you a lot. I am so worried. Please come out of that ferry. We ought to go and eat your favourite things, sweet potatoes, cheese and tangerines," it read.

"It must be really cold in there. I am so sorry that I cannot do anything for you. It makes me feel so frustrated - there is nothing else I can do but pray for you. I don't even want to imagine how scared you must be. I hope you are alive. I won't give up, I will wait for you. I want to tell you that I love you."

A professor who led a psychological counselling at the school said the children now distrusted adults who fought amongst themselves, did little to rescue the passengers and told them to stay put.

"That is an obstacle in our treatment," he told local radio. "Without dealing with the mistrust, it is hard to approach them to help cure them. Yet such distrust cannot be dealt with words only. Once betrayed, how do you expect them to believe us again?"


Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members who abandoned ship after telling the children to stay put in their cabins have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an "excessive change of course without slowing down".

One crew member said after a brief appearance in court on Thursday she and six colleagues had been "under command" to abandon ship. Another was asked if there was any discussion about trying to save the children.

"At that moment, we were on the third floor and except for the third floor situation, we weren't aware of anything else," the crew member said.

Prosecutors have raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, the company that operated the Sewol. They seized another ferry run by the company and found that life rafts and escape chutes were not working properly.

"I'm not saying it automatically means Sewol's safety equipment was faulty, but it helps to deduce the state of maintenance," one investigator told Reuters.

Prosecutors said on Friday they had told Yoo's younger son, who is staying in New York, and daughter to return by Tuesday for investigation.

Along with his elder brother, Yoo Hyuk-kee, Yoo is the biggest shareholder of a holding company that owns Chonghaejin Marine and its other affiliates.

Prosecutors said they had found some data have been deleted from computers they confiscated in the raids and some computers had been replaced.

The Sewol, 146 metres (479 ft) long and 22 metres wide, was more than three times overloaded, according to official recommendations, with cargo poorly stowed and inadequate ballast.

Moon Ki-han, an executive at Uryeon (Union Transport Co.), the firm that supervised cargo loading, told Reuters there were 105 containers onboard, some of which toppled into the sea as the ship listed.

Forty-five were loaded on to the front deck and 60 into the lower decks, Moon said. In total, the ship was carrying 3,600 metric tons of cargo including containers, vehicles and other goods, he said.

A member of parliament this week said the Korean Register of Shipping recommended a load of 987 tons for the Sewol.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Mokpo and Kim Miyoung and Cho Meeyoung in Seoul; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

U.S. and Japan have TPP market access breakthrough-official

Posted: 24 Apr 2014 09:00 PM PDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States and Japan have achieved a breakthrough on market access in bilateral talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, although no final agreement has been reached, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

"There are still details to be worked out. There is still much work to be done .... We believe we do have a breakthrough in our bilateral negotiations," a senior U.S. official accompanying President Barack Obama to South Korea.

Obama arrived in Osan, south of Seoul, on Friday after an official visit to Japan.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Exclusive - Obama may call EU leaders in Russia sanctions push: sources

Posted: 24 Apr 2014 08:50 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to speak to several European leaders on Friday to try to nudge the EU toward fresh sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, sources familiar with the matter said.

Disagreements among European Union nations on whether to impose new economic sanctions on Russia have held up punitive steps by the United States, said the sources on condition of anonymity, but Washington could also act on its own.

U.S. officials have grown increasingly impatient with what they describe as Russia's failure to live up to its commitments in an April 17 agreement reached in Geneva to try to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.

The United States is also frustrated at the reluctance of some European nations, notably Germany and Italy, to impose a new round of economic sanctions on Russia but it would much prefer to act in concert with the EU rather than on its own.

The sources said Obama was expected to speak in a conference call on Friday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to discuss the issue.

Comment from the White House was not immediately available.

Obama is in Asia on a four-nation trip. Speaking in Tokyo on Thursday, he blamed Russia for failing to carry out the Geneva deal and said he was ready to impose new sanctions.


In a sign of growing U.S. concern about Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry issued what amounted to a warning to Russia not to invade. Russia has some 40,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, some of which staged military exercises on Thursday.

"Following today's threatening movement of Russian troops right up to Ukraine's border, let me be clear: If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake," he said in a hastily arranged appearance at the State Department.

The United States accuses Russia of backing separatists in eastern Ukraine as part of a deliberate attempt to destabilize the region, undermine elections planned for next month, and gain greater influence over Kiev.

Russia seized and annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine last month after President Vladimir Putin overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy by announcing the right to use military force in neighbouring countries.

Under the accord struck by Russia, Ukraine, the United States and European Union in Geneva last week, illegal armed groups are supposed to disarm and go home, including rebels occupying about a dozen buildings in the largely Russian-speaking east.

The rebels have shown no sign of retreating.

"As President Obama reiterated earlier today, we are ready to act," Kerry said on Thursday.

When he announced the Geneva agreement a week ago, the U.S. secretary of state had said that if Russia did not take steps "over the course of these next days" there would be additional sanctions as a consequence.

Several sources said that the United States did not, however, wish to act on its own.

Washington's basic reasoning is that the practical effect on Russia's economy and markets, as well as the symbolic import of further sanctions, will be greater if the United States is seen to be acting in concert with the European Union.

The United States has so far imposed three rounds of sanctions in connection with the unrest in Ukraine - two aimed at Russian targets and a third focused on Crimean individuals and a Crimean gas company.

The European Union is highly dependent on Russian gas deliveries, and the crisis over Ukraine has fanned concerns about future supply. Russia is also an important market for many EU exporters, notably in Germany.

On March 21, the EU imposed sanctions on 12 Russians and Ukrainians because of Moscow's takeover of Crimea, bringing the number of people targeted by EU asset freezes and travel bans to 33.

On April 14, the EU agreed to expand the list of people subject to such penalties but the bloc has yet to agree on the names or to actually impose the sanctions.

(Editing by Paul Tait)


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