SKorea: We mismatched bodies from ferry disaster

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Obama Honors South Korean Ferry Victims

By JUNG-YOON CHOI and YOUKYUNG LEE
Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- As visiting President Barack Obama offered South Koreans his condolences Friday for the ferry disaster, the South Korean government conceded that some bodies have been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again.

There have been several reports in South Korean media this week of bodies going to the wrong families, with the error sometimes caught only after the remains were taken to a funeral home. An "action plan" released by the government-wide emergency task force acknowledged that "there have been cases where the victims were wrongly transferred."

Remains will be transferred to families when there is a match using DNA testing or fingerprint or dental records, the task force said. The transfer will be temporary when a body is matched though identification or physical description, and authorities will wait for more authoritative evidence before making the transfer permanent.

Divers have recovered 183 bodies so far, but 119 remain missing and are feared dead in the dark rooms of the submerged vessel.

Search officials including a navy spokesman and a diver said 35 of the ferry's 111 rooms have been searched so far, Yonhap news agency reported. They said 48 of the bodies recovered were found were in a single large room built to accommodate 38.

The ferry sank April 16 on its way from Incheon port to the southern tourist island of Jeju. More than 80 percent of the 302 dead and missing are students from a single high school in Ansan, south of Seoul.

Obama arrived Friday afternoon at the Blue House, South Korea's presidential residence, and presented President Park Geun-hye with an American flag that flew over the White House the day the ship sank. His first South Korean visit since Park took office last year was aimed at issues including North Korea, but he noted that his trip comes at a time of "great sorrow."

"So many were young students with their entire lives ahead of them," Obama said, invoking his two daughters, both close in age to many of the ferry victims. "I can only imagine what the parents are going through at this point, the incredible heartache."

Accepting the flag, Park drew a parallel between the way Americans pulled together after the 9/11 attacks and the resilience of South Koreans following one of the worst maritime disasters in their country's history.

"The Korean people draw great strength from your kindness," she said.

Obama also said he was donating a magnolia tree from the White House lawn to Danwon High School in Ansan in honor of the lives lost and as a symbol of friendship between the U.S. and South Korea.

Eleven crew members, including the captain, have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Prosecutor Yang Jung-jin of the joint investigation team said Friday that the cause of the sinking could be due to excessive veering, improper stowage of cargo, modifications made to the ship and tidal influence. He said investigators will determine the cause by consulting with experts and simulations.

The ferry Sewol was carrying an estimated 3,608 tons of cargo, said Moon Ki-han, a vice president at Union Transport Co., which loaded its cargo. That's also more than three times what an inspector who examined the vessel during a redesign said it could safely carry. It also far exceeds what the captain claimed in paperwork: 150 cars and 657 tons of other cargo, according to the coast guard.

The Korean Register of Shipping inspector's report said that changes made to the ship meant that it had to carry no more than about 1,000 tons of cargo, while taking on more than 2,000 tons of water as ballast to ensure stability. Before the modifications, the report said, the ship could handle more than 2,500 tons of cargo and needed only about 1,000 tons of water ballast.

Yet the coast guard says shipowner Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd. reported cargo capacity of 3,963 tons - a number unchanged from that reported by the Sewol's previous Japanese owner before the ship was redesigned. It was unclear why the earlier maximum tonnage noted in the register document was lower than that provided by either owner.

A naval architecture expert said Friday that the reported load could have set the ship tipping over with a significant turn. Tracking data show the ship turned 45 degrees before sinking, and crew members have reportedly said that they had tried to make a much less severe turn.

"The ship would suddenly fall even with just a small turn. It should not make a sharp turn," said Lee Kyu Yeul, professor emeritus in ship and offshore plant design at Seoul National University's Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering. "It should make a huge circle with 1 or 2 degrees of turn, but (the Sewol) made a small circle. So it fell."

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

An official at the shipping association declined to talk to media by phone, saying it is under investigation by prosecutors.

Prosecutors have raided and seized documents at the Korean Register of Shipping and the Korea Shipping Association, which regulates and oversees departures and arrivals of domestic passenger ships, according to officials at both organizations who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about matters under investigation.

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SKorea: We mismatched bodies from ferry disaster
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they attend a memorial prior to a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by Ed Jones - Pool/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by Ed Jones - Pool/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: A relative of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weeps as she and others stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by Ed Jones - Pool/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo on April 15, 2015. More than 100 relatives of victims of South Korea's Sewol ferry disaster tearfully cast flowers into the sea at an emotional memorial event on the eve of the tragedy's first anniversary. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry captain Lee Jun-Seok (C) is escorted after arriving at a courthouse in Gwangju on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry crew members (centre R) inside a a court room in Gwangju at the start of the verdict proceedings on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry captain Lee Jun-Seok (6th R) sits with other crew members inside a a court room in Gwangju at the start of the verdict proceedings on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry crew members (C) inside a a court room in Gwangju at the start of the verdict proceedings on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry captain Lee Jun-Seok (3rd R) sits with other crew members inside a a court room in Gwangju at the start of the verdict proceedings on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-Seok (C) is escorted upon his arrival at the Gwangju District Court in the southwestern South Korean city of Gwangju on June 24, 2014. Lee Joon-Seok and three crew members are accused of 'homicide through wilful negligence' -- a charge that falls between first-degree murder and manslaughter, but still carries the death penalty. Eleven other members of the crew are being tried on lesser charges of criminal negligence and violations of maritime law. The Sewol was carrying 476 passengers, including 325 students on a school trip, when it sank off the southwest coast on April 16. AFP PHOTO / WONSUK CHOI (Photo credit should read Wonsuk Choi/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry confront vice police chief Choi Sang Han (C) after they forcibly removed him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll on April 24 stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry confront vice police chief Choi Sang Han (C) as they forcibly remove him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll on April 24 stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO / ED JONES (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry confront vice police chief Choi Sang Han (centre L) as they forcibly remove him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll on April 24 stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry confront vice police chief Choi Sang Han (C) as they forcibly remove him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll on April 24 stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry express their frustration as they surround police officer Choi Sang Han (C) after forcibly removing him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 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)
People attend a memorial for the victims of the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' at the Ansan Olympic memorial hall on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO/ KIM DOO-HO (Photo credit should read KIM DOO-HO/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend a memorial for the victims of the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' at the Ansan Olympic memorial hall on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO/ KIM DOO-HO (Photo credit should read KIM DOO-HO/AFP/Getty Images)
Coastguard boats and search and rescue teams take part in recovery operations at night at the site of the 'Sewol' ferry, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 24, 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)
Coastguards ride a boat during recovery operations at the site of the 'Sewol' ferry, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 24, 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)
Coastguard police chief Kim Seouk Gyun (bottom C), vice coastguard police chief Choi Sang Han (bottom R), and South Korean minister of Oceans and Fisheries Lee Ju Young (bottom L) attend a meeting with relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry at Jindo harbour on April 24, 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)
ANSAN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 23: Students and citizens hold candles as they pray for the safe return of missing passengers who were travelling aboard south Korean ferry the Sewol, which sank off the coast of Jindo Island, on April 23, 2014 in Ansan, South Korea. The confirmed death toll is reported to have risen to 150, with more than 150 people still missing. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Relatives of a passenger on board the capsized South Korean ferry Sewol weep at an area where family members of victims of the disaster are gathered at Jindo harbour on April 22, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100, as dive teams, under growing pressure from bereaved relatives, accelerated the grim task of recovering hundreds more bodies from the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean coast guards and rescue workers are seen at the accident site of the capsized South Korean ferry Sewol in Jindo on April 22, 2014. The confirmed death toll in South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100, but almost twice that number remained unaccounted for nearly a week into the rescue and recovery effort. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man looks at flowers and messages at a makeshift memorial at the main gate of Danwon high school in Ansan on April 21, 2014 where many of the schoolchildren missing from the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' attended. The captain and crew of the South Korean ferry that capsized last week with hundreds of children on board acted in a way 'tantamount to murder,' President Park Guen-Hye said on April 21, as four more crew members were arrested. AFP PHOTO / KIM DOO-HO (Photo credit should read KIM DOO-HO/AFP/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 21: Rescue workers carry a victim of the sunken ferry off the coast of Jindo Island on April 21, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. At least sixty four people are reported dead, with 238 still missing. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, traveling to Jeju Island. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean rescue members carry the body of a victim recovered from the 'Sewol' ferry to an ambulance at a harbour in Jindo on April 22, 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 / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 16: In this screen shot handout of helicopter camera provided by the Republic of Korea Coat Guard, the ferry is seen sinking off as the rescue work continues the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. Two people are dead, and more than ninety are missing as reported. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, traveling to Jeju island. (Photo by The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 16: In this screen shot handout of helicopter camera provided by the Republic of Korea Coat Guard, the ferry is seen sinking as the rescue work continues off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. Two people are dead, and more than ninety are missing as reported. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, traveling to Jeju island. (Photo by Handout/The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 16: In this screen shot handout of helicopter camera provided by the Republic of Korea Coat Guard, the ferry is seen sinking as the rescue work continues off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. Two people are dead, and more than ninety are missing as reported. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, traveling to Jeju island. (Photo by The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images)
Flares light up the sea for search and rescue teams during recovery operations at the site of the 'Sewol' ferry of the coast of the South Korean island on Jindo on April 22, 2014. Divers began to locate bodies on April 19 inside a submerged South Korean ferry as the detained captain defended his decision to delay evacuation of the ship when it capsized nearly four days ago with 476 people on board. AFP PHOTO / ED JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
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