The Koreas

South Korea Will Salvage the Sewol Ferry

Over a year after the Sewol ferry sank, the South Korean government has finally announced it will salvage the vessel.

South Korea Will Salvage the Sewol Ferry

The ferry Sewol in March 2014.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ jinjoo2713

South Korea announced Wednesday it will salvage the ferry Sewol, which sank last year with the loss of 304 lives. By salvaging the Sewol, the government is meeting a key demand of the victims’ families.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries told local media that work on raising the ferry, which sunk off the southern island of Jindo in April 2014, would begin in September. The government has estimated that the operation could take between a year and 18 months and cost $92-138 million, depending on weather conditions.

Raising the ship has long been a demand of surviving families, who believe the wreck could contain the bodies of nine victims who remain unaccounted for, as well as clues to the cause of the disaster.

While the possibility of salvage was first raised shortly after the sinking, the government didn’t launch a related task force until November. Some families had initially opposed raising the ship in case it damaged any of the bodies inside.

The drawn out decision has angered many of those who lost loved ones on the Sewol. On Saturday, families and thousands of sympathetic citizens took to the streets of Seoul to demand the raising of the ship. The protesters also decried what they see as government meddling in an independent inquiry into the disaster.

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It is unclear whether the government’s latest announcement will do much to quell the anger of the surviving families and their supporters.

Park Eun-mi, whose 17-year-old daughter Hu Da-yun has yet to be recovered from the sinking, said the announcement was welcome but much too late.

“The content of today’s announcement is no change from the government’s announcement last year that it would look into salvaging the ship. The government has been doing nothing until now,” she told The Diplomat.

Park said the long wait for a resolution has caused her great distress.

“The government says it will do the work in September, but it’s too late. I think it should be done as soon as possible.”