Families of still-missing Sewol passengers decide to stop waiting

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Families of missing five passengers from the Sewol ferry tragedy announced that they will finally let go of their children.

Families of five passengers still missing from the Sewol ferry sinking in 2014 will stop waiting for the return of their loved ones and hold a joint funeral for them Friday.

According to families of the five -- two Danwon High School students, a teacher and a father-son duo -- they will hold a press conference Tuesday on their plan to leave Mokpo Port and tell the authorities it is OK to cease the search now.

The families have stayed in makeshift container homes at Mokpo Port since April 9, when the hoisted shipwreck was brought onshore. Before then, they stayed at Paengmok Port, near where the ship sank.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries began a search operation inside the recovered wreck in early May, but only the remains of four of the total nine missing passengers were identified.

“We do not want to think selfishly and continue to ask for a search (by the government),” a bereaved family member was quoted by local media as saying.

“We know that a tremendous amount of tax was already put into the search. (Giving up the search operation) is what’s right for now.”

The ship was carrying 476 passengers, mostly students of Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, when it sank on April 16, 2014.

The Ansan City Government said it will prepare a farewell ceremony for missing Sewol passengers at a funeral hall in Ansan from Saturday to Monday.

During the first stage of the seven-month search of the ferry’s wreckage, about 120 search operators sifted manually through bags of mud retrieved from the third to fifth decks of the ferry, where cabins are located.

The second part of the search, which resumed in August, involved the first and second decks, the cargo compartment of Sewol.

On May 17, the first human bone discovered on the sea bed where the Sewol sat was identified to be from Danwon High School teacher Ko Chang-suk, one of the nine missing passengers, through a DNA test by the National Forensic Service.

A belated funeral for Ko was held Saturday.

In addition to Ko, remains of two Danwon High School students and those of a female passenger have been identified.

The remains of those three victims were discovered in bedrooms on the third and fourth floors where most of the Danwon High School students were staying on the day of the sinking.

The ministry had said the five other missing bodies are believed to be in that area as well.

Families also reportedly said they decided to halt the search operation with worries that adverse winter weather could hamper the search operation and risk operators’ lives on the seabed.

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