South Korea Shipwreck: Entertainment Industry Halts Amid Rescue Efforts

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Festivals, album releases and liquor commercials are called off as 278 people go missing at sea.

SEOUL -- As South Korean authorities rush to resolve a devastating ferry disaster that has left nearly 300 missing at sea and the rest of the nation in shock, everyone from musicians to liquor makers are voluntarily refraining from anything deemed "too festive."

Some of the season's biggest film premieres and red carpet events were immediately called off after Sewol, a 6,825-ton ferry, sank Wednesday morning off the southwestern coast of Korea. According to most recent announcements, a total of 475 passengers, including 325 high school students on a school trip, were onboard.

Though massive rescue efforts involving hundreds of divers, aircrafts and vessels are underway, heavy rain, strong currents and thick fog have hampered the process. At least 179 have been rescued while 18 have been found dead and 278 others remain unaccounted for in frigid waters at press time.

President Park Geun-hye visited victims' families who have been camping out in Jindo, about 12 miles from the site of the accident. As local authorities attend to the crisis, politicians have stopped carrying out campaigns ahead of regional elections slated for June. The ruling Saenuri Party released an advisory for civil servants to refrain from golfing and drinking.

Major liquor manufacturers have decided to halt campaigns largely associated with partying, while numerous seasonal cherry blossom festivals around the country were also shut down. The Korea Baseball Organization has announced that there will be minimal cheering at matches that are scheduled this weekend and a ceremony featuring former figure skating champion Kim Yu-na was pushed back.

K-pop artists such as Lena Park (aka Park Jung-hyun) and Yang Hee-eun have decided to postpone much anticipated album releases, while major concerts scheduled for this week have been called off, including those featuring rocker Lee Seung-hwan and members of boy bands Infinite and SHINee. Other popular bands, including Apink, T-ara and EXO, have decided not to take part in various promotional events. Online commentators vehemently criticized EXO fans when concert tickets were immediately sold out online on Wednesday evening amid the disaster.