Families of ferry's lost confront South Korea officials

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FAMILIES OF FERRY'S LOST CONFRONT SKOREA OFFICIALS
By GILLIAN WONG and YOUKYUNG LEE

JINDO, South Korea (AP) - Angry relatives of some of the more than 130 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 171 - 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.

"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.

___

Lee reported from Seoul. Associated Press writers Jung-hee Oh and Kyeongmin Lee in Jindo and Hyung-jin Kim, Foster Klug and Leon Drouin-Keith in Seoul contributed to this report.


Families of ferry's lost confront South Korea officials
South Korean rescue teams take part in recovery operations at the site of the sunken 'Sewol' ferry, marked with buoys, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 23, 2014. The search for scores of passengers still missing from South Korea's ferry disaster entered a second week on April 23, to the deepening distress of their grieving, angry and frustrated families. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean rescue teams take part in recovery operations at the site of the sunken 'Sewol' ferry, marked with buoys, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 23, 2014. The search for scores of passengers still missing from South Korea's ferry disaster entered a second week on April 23, to the deepening distress of their grieving, angry and frustrated families. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean rescue teams take part in recovery operations at the site of the sunken 'Sewol' ferry, marked with buoys, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 23, 2014. The search for scores of passengers still missing from South Korea's ferry disaster entered a second week on April 23, to the deepening distress of their grieving, angry and frustrated families. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of a passenger on board the capsized South Korean ferry 'Sewol' stands in front of a board with the names of victims that have been identified at Jindo harbour on April 23, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose sharply to more than 120 on April 22 as divers speeded up the grim task of recovering bodies from the submerged ship and police took two more of its crew into custody. AFP PHOTO/ Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of passengers on board capsized South Korean ferry Sewol look at a board with the names of victims that have been identified at Jindo harbour on April 23, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose sharply to more than 120 on April 22 as divers speeded up the grim task of recovering bodies from the submerged ship and police took two more of its crew into custody. AFP PHOTO/ Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of passengers of the capsized South Korean ferry 'Sewol' wait for updated news in an area where family members of victims of the disaster are gathered along Jindo harbour on April 23, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose sharply to more than 120 on April 22 as divers speeded up the grim task of recovering bodies from the submerged ship and police took two more of its crew into custody. AFP PHOTO/ Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of missing passengers of the 'Sewol' ferry weep as they stand before the sea at Jindo harbour on April 23, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100 on April 22, as dive teams, under growing pressure from bereaved relatives, accelerated the grim task of recovering hundreds more bodies from the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / ED JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A student from Danwon high school reacts after visiting a newly opened group memorial altar (back) for the victims from the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' at the Ansan Olympic memorial hall on April 23, 2014, just down the street from Danwon high school where many of the schoolchildren, lost in the accident, attended. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose sharply to more than 120 on April 22 as divers speeded up the grim task of recovering bodies from the submerged ship and police took two more of its crew into custody. AFP PHOTO / KIM DOO-HO (Photo credit should read KIM DOO-HO/AFP/Getty Images)
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