Search for five still-missing bodies from Sewol will cease

Bereaved families of five missing victims of the April 2014 Sewol ferry disaster said last week that they would no longer seek to recover the remains of their relatives. The sinking of the Sewol ferry killed 304 people, mainly schoolchildren heading for the resort island of Jeju on a field trip.

The investigation into one of the worst maritime disasters in Korea’s history revealed a sequence of structural problems in the government and related authorities in charge of the rescue, which critics claimed led to a failure to carry out a timely response.

The victims’ families said they had decided to leave the Mokpo port where the salvaged hull has been since it was hoisted from the sea in late March this year.

Nine victims had remained unaccounted for when the ship was lifted from the water in April, three years after sinking. The search team discovered the remains of four missing victims, including two female students and a teacher, but five remained missing – two students and a teacher from the same school, and a father and his seven-year-old son. Their families held a funeral later in the day, laying urns filled with ashes from burned belongings left by the victims in two cemeteries where other Sewol victims were put to rest.

Poor handling of the disaster was one of the government faults that triggered moves toward the impeachment of now-ousted President Park Geun-hye, who was officially absent for nearly eight after the accident and refused to disclose her whereabouts during that period.