South Korea sightseeing ship runs aground

The incident revived tragic memories of this year's ferry disaster in which hundreds of people drowned.

FILE: South Korean divers prepare their gear on 18 April 2014 before heading out to sea to the location of the Sewol ferry accident. Picture: AFP.

SEOUL - Some 110 people aboard a South Korean sightseeing ship were rescued by fishing boats after the vessel ran aground near a rocky island on Tuesday, reviving tragic memories of a ferry disaster earlier this year in which hundreds of people drowned.

The coast guard said in a statement that it had asked the fishing boats to assist after receiving a distress call, as it would have taken its patrol vessels longer to reach the stricken vessel.

The ship was stranded a short distance from the island of Hong-do, about 100 km off the southwest coast.

Television images showed the vessel to be listing slightly, but it did not appear to be sinking.

Three people suffered minor injuries during the incident, a coast guard official told Reuters by telephone.

South Korea was plunged into grief and anger after the Sewol ferry sank on 16 April killing more than 300 people, most of them school children, in the country's worst maritime disaster in 44 years.

The Sewol was found to be structurally defective, overloaded with cargo and had insufficient water in the ballast tank for balance when it capsized making a sharp turn.

Of the 476 people on board, 294 were killed, many of them students on a class trip. Ten people remain missing.

President Park Geun-hye's government came under sharp criticism for the handling of the disaster. It has decided to break up the coast guard, which was accused of being slow and ineffective, in order to create a new centralised rescue agency.