Sewol ferry victims' bodies misidentified, given to wrong families; Cause of sinking still unknown
"I knew right away it was not her."
Compounding the grief of the loved ones of deceased or missing South Korean ferry passengers, several bodies have been misidentified and released to the wrong families.
183 bodies have been recovered so far and 119 people are still missing after the ferry, Sewol, sank on April 16.
Some families discovered the mistake after viewing the body in the funeral home, others when identifying the body in the hospital. One father, Pak Yang Wu, was told by the Coast Guard, the hospital, and the Korean media that his daughter's body had been pulled from the ocean.
He went to the hospital to identify the corpse, but it was not his daughter.
"I checked the hands of the body and my daughter's two hands are not exactly the same size, one is a little bigger than the other, so I knew right away that it was not her," Wu told NPR through a translator.
His daughter is now considered missing, not dead. Wu is still hopeful that she will be found alive.
"As a father with a daughter, I would like to believe there's still hope, even if the chance is only a 10th of one percent," he said.
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Pak Gual, sister of the missing high school student, stated that South Korean President Park Geun-Hye is being blamed for the slow search and recovery mission.
"Many families here are saying that the Park administration just trying to cover up the deaths here to minimize their effect on regional elections this June," she said through a translator.
"We see only Coast Guards in charge here. Their responsibility is not clear and we haven't seen any substantial action by higher officials."
A Korean government taskforce recently announced that bodies will not be permanently transferred to families until a DNA or dental records match is conducted. A temporary transfer is allowed based on physical description or identification matches.
The cause of the ferry's sinking has not been identified yet, but investigating prosecutor Yang Jung-jin stated on April 25 that improper steering, inappropriate cargo stowage, ship modifications, and the tide may have caused the capsizing.
476 people were on board the vessel, over 300 of which were students and staff members of Seoul's Ansan Danwon High School.