Sunken South Korean ferry slowly emerges three years after disaster

SEOUL, March 23 (Reuters) - A South Korean ferry that sank nearly three years ago, killing 304 people, most of them children on a school trip, slowly emerged from a grey sea on Thursday, a somber reminder of a tragedy that traumatized the country.

The ferry, the Sewol, was structurally unsound, overloaded and traveling too fast on a turn when it capsized and sank during a routine voyage off the southwest coast on April 16, 2014.

Bereaved families have been calling for the ship to be raised and for a more thorough investigation into the disaster. Officials also hope to find the last nine missing bodies.

35 PHOTOS
Sunken ferry raised during salvage operation in South Korea
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Sunken ferry raised during salvage operation in South Korea
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 24: Submersible vessel attempts to salvage sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 24, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. (Lee Myeong-Ik-Pool/Getty Images)
The sunken ferry Sewol on a semi-submersible transport vessel is seen during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, South Korea. Salvage crews towed the corroded 6,800-ton South Korean ferry and loaded it onto a semi-submersible transport vessel Saturday, completing what was seen as the most difficult part of the massive effort to bring the ship back to shore nearly three years after it sank. / KOREAN MINISTRY OF OCEANS AND FISHERIES
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 28: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Relatives of the missing victims look at a Sewol ferry on March 28, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. The Oceans Ministry says remains presumed to be of a victim of the Sewol ferry sinking have been found at the salvage site. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)

This aerial image shows part of the damaged Sewol ferry between two barges after being raised during a salvage operation at sea off the southwestern island of Jindo on March 23, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters on March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 28: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Lee Geum-Hui (L), mother of Danwon High student Cho Eun-Hwa who went missing in the Sewol ferry holds a flower as she stands on the deck of a boat on March 28, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. The Oceans Ministry says remains presumed to be of a victim of the Sewol ferry sinking have been found at the salvage site. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)

This aerial image shows part of the damaged Sewol ferry between two barges after being raised during a salvage operation at sea off the southwestern island of Jindo on March 23, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters on March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A South Korean fisher drives a boat to the site of attempts to salvage sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 23, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing.

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 26: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, The sunken Sewol ferry on a semi-submersible transport vessel during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, on March 26, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)

This aerial image shows part of the damaged Sewol ferry between two barges after being raised during a salvage operation at sea off the southwestern island of Jindo on March 23, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters on March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

This aerial image shows part of the damaged Sewol ferry between two barges after being raised during a salvage operation at sea off the southwestern island of Jindo on March 23, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters on March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 25: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Maritime Ministry, Workers participate in the salvage operation of the Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 25, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. (Photo by South Korean Maritime Ministry via Getty Images)

This aerial image shows part of the damaged Sewol ferry between two barges after being raised during a salvage operation at sea off the southwestern island of Jindo on March 23, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters on March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Submersible vessel attempts to salvage sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 23, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing.

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 26: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, The sunken Sewol ferry on a semi-submersible transport vessel during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, on March 26, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)

This aerial image shows part of the damaged Sewol ferry between two barges after being raised during a salvage operation at sea off the southwestern island of Jindo on March 23, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters on March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The Sewol ferry is lifted during a salvage operation off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo on March 24, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

This aerial image shows part of the damaged Sewol ferry between two barges after being raised during a salvage operation at sea off the southwestern island of Jindo on March 23, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters on March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Submersible vessel attempts to salvage sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 23, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing.

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

In this handout photo released by Korea Coast Guard, a submersible vessel attempts to salvage sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 22, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing.

(Photo by Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images)

Submersible vessel attempts to salvage sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 23, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing.

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 28: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Lee Geum-Hui (L), mother of Danwon High student Cho Eun-Hwa who went missing in the Sewol ferry looks at Sewol ferry as she stands on the deck of a boat on March 28, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. The Oceans Ministry says remains presumed to be of a victim of the Sewol ferry sinking have been found at the salvage site. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)
The sunken ferry Sewol is seen on a semi-submersible transport vessel during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, South Korea. Salvage crews towed the corroded 6,800-ton South Korean ferry and loaded it onto a semi-submersible transport vessel Saturday, completing what was seen as the most difficult part of the massive effort to bring the ship back to shore nearly three years after it sank. / KOREAN MINISTRY OF OCEANS AND FISHERIES
Workers try to raise the sunken Sewol ferry, center, between two barges during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, South Korea. The 6,800-ton South Korean ferry emerged from the water on Thursday, nearly three years after it capsized and sank into violent seas off the country's southwestern coast, an emotional moment for the country that continues to search for closure to one of its deadliest disasters ever. / KOREAN MINISTRY OF OCEANS AND FISHERIES
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 28: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, The sunken ferry Sewol is seen on a semi-submersible transport vessel during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, on March 28, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. The Oceans Ministry says remains presumed to be of a victim of the Sewol ferry sinking have been found at the salvage site. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 28: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Lee Geum-Hui (L), mother of Danwon High student Cho Eun-Hwa who went missing in the Sewol ferry holds a flower as she stands on the deck of a boat on March 28, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. The Oceans Ministry says remains presumed to be of a victim of the Sewol ferry sinking have been found at the salvage site. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)
The sunken ferry Sewol is seen on a semi-submersible transport vessel during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, South Korea. Salvage crews towed the corroded 6,800-ton South Korean ferry and loaded it onto a semi-submersible transport vessel Saturday, completing what was seen as the most difficult part of the massive effort to bring the ship back to shore nearly three years after it sank. / KOREAN MINISTRY OF OCEANS AND FISHERIES
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 26: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, The sunken Sewol ferry on a semi-submersible transport vessel during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, on March 26, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 26: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, The sunken Sewol ferry on a semi-submersible transport vessel during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, on March 26, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)
Workers try to raise the sunken Sewol ferry, center, between two barges during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, South Korea. The 6,800-ton South Korean ferry emerged from the water on Thursday, nearly three years after it capsized and sank into violent seas off the country's southwestern coast, an emotional moment for the country that continues to search for closure to one of its deadliest disasters ever. / KOREAN MINISTRY OF OCEANS AND FISHERIES
The sunken ferry Sewol on a semi-submersible transport vessel is seen during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, South Korea. Salvage crews towed the corroded 6,800-ton South Korean ferry and loaded it onto a semi-submersible transport vessel Saturday, completing what was seen as the most difficult part of the massive effort to bring the ship back to shore nearly three years after it sank. / KOREAN MINISTRY OF OCEANS AND FISHERIES
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 26: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, The sunken Sewol ferry on a semi-submersible transport vessel during the salvage operation in waters off Jindo, on March 26, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. Workers are in the process of an attempt to raise the ferry from the water in the hope that the disasters' final victims will be found. (Photo by South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries via Getty Images)
The Sewol ferry is lifted during a salvage operation off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo on March 24, 2017. South Koreas sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters March 23, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 24: Submersible vessel attempts to salvage sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 24, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 24: Submersible vessel attempts to salvage sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, on March 24, 2017 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The Sewol sank off the Jindo Island in April 2014 leaving more than 300 people dead and nine of them still remain missing. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
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"We can't help but feel stunned seeing the ship being raised," Lee Kum-hee, whose daughter Cho Eun-hwa was one of the nine, told reporters.

"My Eun-hwa has been in that dirty place. My poor Eun-hwa. It's been heart-breaking, how cold she's been there," Lee said in tears.

Salvagers started to bring up the vessel, which has been lying on its side at a depth of 144 feet, late on Wednesday, and worked through the night.

Television pictures taken from the air early on Thursday showed the white 460-foot long hull, coated in mud and sediment, breaking above the surface, flanked by winching barges.

"The work needs to be done very cautiously," Lee Cheol-jo, an official at the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries, which is in charge of the operation, told a briefing.

A Chinese salvage company has fitted 33 beams beneath the hull with 66 hydraulic jacks inching the ship up.

Salvage workers in orange overalls and white hard-hats clambers over the hull fixing cables. The name Sewol could just be made out through the grime.

34 PHOTOS
South Korean ferry sinks
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South Korean ferry sinks
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 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 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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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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Lee said the ferry would be raised as high as 42 feet above the sea and then moved onto a semi-submersible vessel. That operation was expected to take until Friday and it would then be taken to a nearby port, but that could take up to 12 or 13 days, he said.

Once the sunken ferry had been secured on the semi-submersible vessel, bereaved families would be allowed to observe from a closer distance, another official said.

Only when the ferry has been brought to port will it be inspected, media reported.

Of those killed, 250 were teenagers from the same high-school, many of whom obeyed crew instructions to remain in their cabins even as crew members were escaping the sinking ship.

The botched rescue and toll of children in one of Asia's most technically advanced economies shocked and angered the country, with former President Park Geun-hye and her administration the focus of much of the ire at the time.

Park denied accusations that she failed to act decisively but for many South Korans, she has never fully explained what she was doing during the seven hours between the first news reports and her first television appearance that day.

Her response to the disaster was again raised in recent months after she came under suspicion in the course of an investigation into a corruption scandal that led to her dismissal from office on March 10.

The captain of the ferry was found guilty of homicide in 2015 and jailed for life. More than a dozen other crew members got shorter sentences.

The salvage is costing about $75 million, another ministry official said this week.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)

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