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Families of ferry's lost confront SKorea officials

JINDO, South Korea (AP) -- Angry relatives of some of the more than 120 people still missing from the sinking of the ferry Sewol surrounded the fisheries minister and the coast guard chief Thursday, preventing them from leaving the area where families have been waiting for word of their loved ones for more than a week.

It was the latest expression of fury and desperation in a disaster filled with signs that the government did too little to protect passengers. An opposition politician said he has a document showing that the ferry was carrying far more cargo than it should have been.

Relatives of the missing passengers surrounded Oceans and Fisheries Minister Lee Ju-young, coast guard chief Kim Seok-kyun and deputy chief Choi Sang-hwan. The men sat on the ground under a tent where details about the recovered dead - now numbering 175 - are posted.

Some of the family members shouted at the officials, accusing them of lying about the operation, demanding that the search continue through the night and asking why hundreds of civilian divers have not been allowed to join coast guard and navy personnel in searching for bodies. Some of the relatives cried through the tense scene.

Raw: Angry Relatives Confront SKorea Officials

"We are doing our work and we, too, feel the way you do," Kim said. "We are trying to bring all the equipment that we can."

About 700 divers are working at the site of the April 16 wreck, said Koh Myung-seok, spokesman for the government-wide emergency task force. He said more than 340 volunteer divers have visited, but only 16 have gone underwater.

Responding to complaints that the volunteers have been underutilized, Koh said some have been allow to dive but "left after taking photos or have come out of the water in less than 10 minutes. As a result, we have decided that civilian divers are slowing down the rescue process" and will not be allowed to participate.

The government has said the search is becoming more difficult because divers must now break through cabin walls to find more bodies. Many of the bodies already retrieved were in a larger lounge area.

Eleven crew members, including the captain, have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need as the ferry sank on its way from Incheon port to the southern island of Jeju. Arrest warrants were issued against four of the crew on Thursday.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known, but prosecutors are considering factors including a turn made around the time the ship began listing, wind, ocean currents, modifications made to the ship and the freight it was carrying.

Moon Ki-han, a vice president at Union Transport Co., which loaded the Sewol's cargo, said it was carrying an estimated 3,608 tons of cargo. That is far more than what the coast guard said Capt. Lee Joon-seok reported in paperwork submitted to the Korea Shipping Association: 150 cars and 657 tons of other cargo. Motor vehicles typically weigh about a ton each.

Lawmaker Kim Yung-rok of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, an opposition party, said he has documents from the Korean Register of Shipping that show the Sewol was carrying more than three and a half times more cargo than regulators allowed. His office released only a portion of the documents to The Associated Press on Thursday.

Kim said a register inspector, examining the ship as it was being modified to carry more passengers, found that its center of gravity had been raised 51 centimeters (20 inches), and its cargo limit would have to be reduced by more than half, from 2,437 tons to 987 tons. The modifications were made in late 2012 and early 2013.

Shipowner Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd. reported a capacity of 3,963 tons, according to a coast guard official in Incheon who had access to the documentation but declined to release it. That is the same maximum tonnage the ferry had under its previous Japanese owner, "A" Line Ferry Co., before Chonghaejin modified the vessel, according to Takaharu Miyazono of "A" Line.

It was unclear why the earlier maximum tonnage noted in the register document was lower than that provided by either Chonghaejin or the previous owner.

Officials with South Korea's maritime ministry and coast guard each said they were not even aware of the Sewol's cargo capacity, saying it was the shipping association's job to oversee it. The shipping association is private and is partly funded by the industry it regulates.

Even the report by the inspector reflects "a problem in the system," said Lee Gwee Bok, president of Incheon Port Development Association and a former captain. He said the Sewol never should have been cleared for operation because the register should have known the shipowner would never meet the conditions.

"The ship's operator aims to make money and instinctively tries to add more freight," Lee said.

More than 80 percent of the dead and missing were juniors at Danwon High School in Anwan, south of Seoul, where seniors Thursday returned to a campus strewn with yellow ribbons, chrysanthemums and photos of lost classmates and teachers.

Younger grades, including the 13 juniors who did not go on the ferry, will return to school next week. It's not clear when the 75 students who survived will return; most remain hospitalized, many for mental stress.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
chino999 April 24 2014 at 10:30 PM

First of all I believe that should be an age limit to do this can of job, just like with airline pilots.
I'm not saying that he doesn't know how to do his job but I strongly believe that people with this kind of experience should be positioned as instructor or as a consultant.

And definitely I don't think that he would like or intentionally create a situation of this kind.
Our hearts should go to him and all his crew as to all the victims of this tragedy.
In a situation as this one it has to be a long and specific investigation before they could find the truth of what happened.
so far, we've been listening to comments and even accusations mostly from people that are angry or emotional.
Please don't judge him or anyone else before knowing all the facts, specially when not of us were there.

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2 replies
Chios chino999 April 24 2014 at 11:31 PM

Hillary Clinton needs to observe an "age limit"!

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1 reply
mchris1542 Chios April 25 2014 at 2:48 AM


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rpthe1 chino999 April 24 2014 at 11:40 PM

It was a 25 year old at the wheel so I guess he was doing what you want. How'd that work out?

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Trish April 24 2014 at 6:03 PM

I send heart felt prayers to the families of both these disasters. There is no way that I can even try to imagine what any of these poor people feel. And I feel bad for the crew that this was allowed to happen and that captain is a coward and should be tried for however many bodies are recovered. What a sad sad waste

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2 replies
decwindows3 Trish April 24 2014 at 6:40 PM

Was that not our Captin! Be the last person to leave the ship? Or go down with his ship! My captin, who seas our protection in our faith in our Caption/ government? You tell me? I wonder.
The Art of it!

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ilenedan2 Trish April 24 2014 at 7:00 PM

Most of the crew left in the life boat, before the rest of the passengers who made it swam, and without making an announcement that the passengers should even come up on deck to await rescue so they had a chance and would not be trapped below, so I'm not feeling too bad for the crew.

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raptureready1958 April 24 2014 at 5:32 PM

Can you imagine what the families of that missing plane must feel too?

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U April 24 2014 at 11:36 PM

to all moms and dads u can go on schools trips with your kids i say go with them

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SOUTHPORT INV. April 24 2014 at 5:14 PM

Only the families of flight 370 can understand what these poor people are going through.

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1 reply
Cindy SOUTHPORT INV. April 24 2014 at 5:22 PM

At least these poor people will know what happened to their loved ones. the families of those on the Maylasian airliner may never know.

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Tom April 24 2014 at 5:04 PM

so so sad they were just teenagers unplanning death not suppose to happen

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1 reply
Sandra Tom April 24 2014 at 5:53 PM

And to some families they were "only child"..... as South Korea does that. My heart goes out to them.

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1 reply
ilenedan2 Sandra April 24 2014 at 7:32 PM

South Korea does not have population control, and even in China where they had the one child policy, they actually have about 1.6 births per woman now, I believe.

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balsten April 24 2014 at 5:03 PM

Greed is not good, human lives are!

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robokock419 April 25 2014 at 12:17 AM

GREED is destroying our country and was responsible for the deaths on the Ferry If we do not regulate banks, shipping or any industry Greed will kill and destroy lives, peoples savings and peoples health. We must regulate for GREED for it is a temptress that very few are able to deny.

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1 reply
wlh1923 robokock419 April 25 2014 at 1:00 AM

You're blaming this on the U.S.?

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1 reply
mary wlh1923 April 25 2014 at 4:42 AM

it is called absorbing criticism

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pilimili5 April 25 2014 at 12:42 AM

I am so sorry for the lost of the South Korea students, in their families.

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mchris1542 April 25 2014 at 2:44 AM

My heart really aches wanting to ease the pain of what each person is going through

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