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South Korea's parents, shaken by ferry disaster, send children to safety class

Published on Jun 13, 2014 3:23 PM

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean parents, well known for marching their children off to cram schools, have been enrolling their young ones in safety classes since hundreds of people were killed in a ferry sinking in April.

The ferry, the Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn, capsized and sank off the south-west coast on April 16, killing more than 300 people, most of them children and teachers from the same school on a class trip.

The fire department in the capital, Seoul, said bookings for its safety classes had risen 20 per cent since the ferry accident. Sales of life jackets had more than doubled, said top discount retailer E-Mart. "The Sewol was different. Too many kids died and it struck the hearts of many parents," Ms Lee Eun Jung, a 46-year-old mother, said this week as she picked up her three girls coming out of a class on how to stay safe in fires and earthquakes. "We weren't affected by the accident but I've been heartbroken ever since," she said.

The Sewol was on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the southern holiday island of Jeju when it went down. One of Ms Lee's daughters happened to be flying to Jeju on a school trip on the same day, making the disaster that much more poignant for their family. "This won't be forgotten. People will change a lot because of this," Ms Lee said.

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