If you haven't read "The West’s Confucian Confusion: How More Confucianism Might Have Saved the Sewol" over at Sweet Pickles and Corn, do head over there now and give it a read (and click around the other posts there while you're at it). One of the best books I've read dealing with Neo-Confucianism (and how it relates to the political and legal traditions in Joseon Korea), by the way, is The Korean Political Tradition and Law by Hahm Pyong-choon (Ham Byeong-chun, who was killed in the Rangoon bombing in 1983) published by the Royal Asiatic Society.
The author of "The West’s Confucian Confusion" notes in the comments that "a lot of it is probably just intellectual laziness, but there’s also something a little darker at work that always seeks to paint Asian people as a mindless undifferentiated mass." I'm sure that goes back a long ways, but that topic is explored in depth in John Dower's "War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War," which examines the the racial aspects of both American and Japanese propaganda; he notes, for example, that while there was room for 'the good German' in Allied propaganda, there was no such category reserved for the Japanese - they were all the same.
As for the corruption at the heart of Chonghaejin Marine Co., which seems responsible for the disaster, see the links put up by King Baeksu over at ROK Drop (I skipped over the other comments, to be honest). As more information about the company and the policies and background of its owner, Yoo Byung-un come to light, it seems a very sordid story is being uncovered.