US$110 mil. to raise Se­wol ferry: S. Korea

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

South Korea said Wed­nes­day it would cost US$110 mil­lion to raise the Se­wol ferry, as pres­sure to sal­vage the ves­sel grows be­fore the first an­niver­sary of its sink­ing.

The 6,825-tonne pas­sen­ger ship sank off the south­west coast on April 16 last year with the loss of more than 300 lives — most of them high school stu­dents.

Ahead of next week’s first an­niver­sary of the tragedy, hun­dreds of par­ents of the dead stu­dents — some with their heads shaved and clad in white mourn­ing robes — marched 35 kilo­me­ters (22 miles) to Seoul from their home town of An­san over the week­end. They were joined by hun­dreds more sup­port­ers for a rally in the cap­i­tal on Sun­day that called on the gov­ern­ment to bring the sunken ves­sel to the sur­face and en­sure a fully in­de­pen­dent in­quiry into the dis­as­ter.

A to­tal of 295 bod­ies were re­cov­ered from the ferry, and nine vic­tims re­mained un­ac­counted for when divers fi­nally called off the danger­ous search of its in­te­rior last Novem­ber.

Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye promised Mon­day to “ac­tively con­sider” rais­ing the Se­wol, tak­ing into ac­count the opin­ions of the rel­a­tives and sal­vage ex­perts.

At a brief­ing on Wed­nes­day, the Min­istry of Oceans and Fish­eries said the sal­vage op­er­a­tion — if ap­proved — would cost around 120 bil­lion won ( US$110 mil­lion). “And that is only an es­ti­mate, as the fi­nal cost would be greatly de­pen­dent on weather con­di­tions, tech­no­log­i­cal un­cer­tain­ties ... etc.,” said se­nior min­istry of­fi­cial Yeon Yeong-jin.

Speak­ing in par­lia­ment the day be­fore, Mar­itime Min­is­ter Yoo Kijune had said a tech­ni­cal re­view on rais­ing the Se­wol was 80-per­cent com­plete and a full re­port would be pub­lished by the end of April.

Yeon said the gov­ern­ment had al­ready spent 185 bil­lion won — most of it on the lengthy search and res­cue op­er­a­tion and fi­nan­cial sup­port for vic­tims’ rel­a­tives — and had bud­geted a fur­ther 140 bil­lion won in fu­ture com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments to fam­i­lies.

Park’s ad­min­is­tra­tion was widely crit­i­cized for its re­sponse to the dis­as­ter, and her ap­proval rat­ings have only just be­gun to re­cover.

Af­ter months of po­lit­i­cal bickering, par­lia­ment passed a bill in Novem­ber ini­ti­at­ing an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sink­ing.

But rel­a­tives have ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of try­ing to in­flu­ence the probe by ap­point­ing of­fi­cials to key posts in the 17-mem­ber in­quiry com­mit­tee.

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