During a meeting in a gymnasium on Jindo Island in South Korea between South Korean coast guard officials and families of those on board the recently capsized ferry, one family member brought up a circulating rumor that the South Korean government had refused search and rescue support from neighboring Japan.
According to reports from Japan’s Sankei Shimbun, an official was updating the victims’ families as to the progress of the search efforts. It was during this presentation that someone asked, “I hear that you turned down an offer of search support from the Japanese. Is that true?”
Following the question, the room reportedly erupted into a clamor. The man on stage responded by saying, “This is the first I’ve heard of it. I will have to look into that before answering.”
There is certainly no love lost between Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF)and South Korea following decades of colonial occupation and allegations of several human rights violations. However, most would agree that during times of extreme emergency such as this, diplomatic tensions should be put aside.
On April 18, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera announced that SDF divers and minesweepers were set up to be dispatched. According to Yomiuri Online, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a message to South Korean President Park Geun-hye on April 17 stating, “We would like to express our condolences and sympathy. Japan is prepared to provide the necessary support.”
During a press conference the next day,, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that at a meeting between South Korea and Japan’s coast guard, it was revealed that the Korean side refused assistance. Other Japanese officials had said that the South Korean coast guard replied, “We very much appreciate the offer, but currently, we have no special need for assistance.”
Beyond these remarks, there has been no official statement from the South Korean or Japanese governments confirming that help was deliberately refused. Nevertheless rumors continue to run rampant.
Sources: MSN Sankei News, Yomiuri Online
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