After 209 days, search for Se­wol vic­tims is ended

Nine re­mains have not been dis­cov­ered, but rel­a­tives give as­sent

Korea JoongAng Daily - - Front Page - BY KANG JIN-KYU

The gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day wrapped up a nearly seven-month search op­er­a­tion in and around the sunken Se­wol ferry de­spite the fact that nine vic­tims are still miss­ing.

The au­thor­i­ties said divers couldn’t haz­ard the grow­ing dan­gers inside the dis­in­te­grat­ing ferry or the drop in wa­ter tem­per­a­ture as win­ter ap­proaches. Their decision comes 209 days after the April 16 sink­ing left more than 300 pas­sen­gers dead in south­west­ern wa­ters off South Je­olla, mostly 11th-grade stu­dents from Dan­won High School in Gyeonggi on a field trip to Jeju Is­land. “I of­fer my sin­cer­est apol­ogy in an­nounc­ing to you the end of search op­er­a­tions with my ear­lier prom­ise un­ful­filled — that I will find the last re­main­ing vic­tim from the wreck,” said a tear­ful Lee Ju-young, the min­is­ter of oceans and fish­eries, dur­ing a press brief­ing yes­ter­day at the cen­tral gov­ern­ment com­plex in Gwangh­wa­mun, cen­tral Seoul.

The min­is­ter, who has been praised across party lines for his lead­er­ship and the em­pa­thy he has shown to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies since the calamity, said the con­di­tions for divers con­duct­ing search op­er­a­tions have be­come “too dan­ger­ous” with win­ter on its way and the grow­ing pos­si­bil­ity of in­ter­nal struc­ture col­lapse inside the ferry. He said there was con­sen­sus among ex­perts on the site that divers’ lives would be put at risk. Lee said in his emo­tional speech that the rel­a­tives of the nine miss­ing vic­tims re­quested the gov­ern­ment to stop the search. “The fam­i­lies of the miss­ing vic­tims have pain in their hearts for leav­ing their loved ones in the cold sea. And yet they re­quest the gov­ern­ment to stop the search ef­forts,” Lee said. “I ex­press my deep­est re­spect for their heart­felt, most dif­fi­cult decision.” With the end­ing of search op­er­a­tions, the gov­ern­ment will con­sult ex­perts on how to lift the 6,835-ton ferry from the seafloor 37 me­ters (121 feet) be­low the sur­face. The gov­ern­ment’s decision ends the 209-day ef­fort that be­gan as a trag­i­cally bun­gled res­cue re­sponse to the

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