News Asia-Pacific

Tuesday 2 September 2014

South Korean ferry families were given wrong bodies

Press Association

Published 26/04/2014 | 02:30

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A girl takes part in a candlelight vigil in Ansan, to commemorate the victims of the sunken passenger ship Sewol and to wish for the safe return of missing passengers
A girl takes part in a candlelight vigil in Ansan, to commemorate the victims of the sunken passenger ship Sewol and to wish for the safe return of missing passengers

THE ordeal for the heartbroken parents of the South Korean ferry disaster seems to have no end.

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Yesterday, the government was forced to concede that some bodies from the ferry disaster have been misidentified.

There have also been several reports 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 would be transferred to families when there was 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 submerged vessel Sewol.

Missing

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

US president Barack Obama arrived 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 Ms 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," Mr Obama said. "I can only imagine what the parents are going through at this point, the incredible heartache."

Mr Obama said he was donating a magnolia tree from the White House lawn to Danwon High School in Ansan.

Eleven crew members, including the captain, have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

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