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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.
rharcetec April 24 2014 at 4:40 PM

It's all about money.

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1 reply
fspoon rharcetec April 24 2014 at 5:40 PM

It's about the LOVE of money.

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iphonerulez April 24 2014 at 6:19 PM

The relatives aren't going to get any satisfaction no matter how much they complain. They're likely to get little in terms of financial compensation and they'll never get their children back. It's just a sad situation with no satisfying solution. The captain will be punished and won't ever pilot a ferry again but he's relatively old and ready for retirement.

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2 replies
decwindows3 iphonerulez April 24 2014 at 6:28 PM

You got that right!
The Art of it!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
totalstudentsvcs iphonerulez April 24 2014 at 7:04 PM

BURN THE CAPTAIN AND HIS FAMILY WITH GASOLINE AND WITH A MATCH ......

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deborahbalansky April 24 2014 at 6:20 PM

i dont think im ever going by plane or boat again

Flag Reply +2 rate up
tiea331 April 24 2014 at 6:30 PM

they'll b lucky if they lived....their stupidity killed and drowned they kids,,,,how horrible 2 imagine....some parents only had 1 child and were told to always obey ther elders...the jerk of a captain should of went backand got them o0ut of the sinking ferry...instead they drowned with their fingers broken from trying to pull their selves up from the rising water.....nobody helped them and they all stayed in the ferry and drowned!!!!!YHow horrible 2 imagine

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1 reply
mhagerinteriors tiea331 April 24 2014 at 7:10 PM

I totally agree. Those parents aren't taking the responsibility of brain-washing their children to OBEY no matter what. That is a part of Asian culture I think. It makes me glad our teenagers in America won't even make their beds.

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irshleaf April 24 2014 at 6:37 PM

not to skirt or table the tragedy off all of this, but one thing I noticed is the difference between south korea and north korea...the relatives would not dare take this kind of action if this event occured in north korea, all involved being NK citizens. I think it says a lot about a communistic regime and a democratic government.

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1 reply
totalstudentsvcs irshleaf April 24 2014 at 7:01 PM

UHMMM its called a DICTATORSHIP ... YOU SPEAK UP YOU DIE.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
firemanw99 April 24 2014 at 7:00 PM

by the weight , it was accident waiting to happen, its a same all those young adults had to perish because of GREED.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
stengernc April 24 2014 at 7:00 PM

Bribery is a way of life there. It is a norm of their society so if someone wanted to break the rules just some cash in a paper bag, it works most of the time. Now this cultural issue may become out dated for a while.

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1 reply
foxylynx stengernc April 24 2014 at 8:43 PM

It's the same here - our whole system of Gov is now based on bribery, that's why "we the people" have such a small voice.

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casscomment April 24 2014 at 7:02 PM

Actually- none of us can really imagine how these people truly feel.
It is impossible to even pretend to be in such a situation as this or the families of the plane
passengers. all we can do is send lots of loving thoughts to them.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
Catherine April 24 2014 at 7:03 PM

It just makes me feel very sad for both the survivors and the victim's famlies and friends. To only begin to understand the gravity of this horrendous crime.
REST IN PEACE children.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
alydartwo April 24 2014 at 8:27 PM

The people that were on that ship should have never even got on the dam thing. They should have noticed that it had 10 lbs of s*** in a 5 lb bag.

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1 reply
porkmcjuicy alydartwo April 24 2014 at 9:01 PM

the ship wasnt even half full so it was not even close to being overloaded. To put that in your preferred choice of words, they only had about 2.5 pounds in that 5 pound bag. SO there was no hint of danger to the passengers as to overcapacity.

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1 reply
roseyoungstewart porkmcjuicy April 24 2014 at 10:35 PM

the ferry boat isn't a ship ... this particular ferry boat was overloaded more than two and a half times the capacity it should have had. it clearly states this in this article.

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