(LEAD) Lee pays tribute to victims of sunken ship
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak joined a stream of mourners Monday to pay homage to dozens of sailors killed in the March 26 sinking of a naval ship.
"The Republic of Korea will not forget your lofty sacrifice," Lee wrote in the guest book at an altar set up in front of Seoul City Hall, using South Korea's official name.
Lee, accompanied by more than 80 senior officials at his office, Cheong Wa Dae, laid a chrysanthemum in front of the portraits of the victims, offered incense, and stood for a moment of silence.
South Koreans are in mourning over the sinking of the Cheonan, a 1,200-ton corvette, near the inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea. The bodies of 40 crew members have been found but six others remain unaccounted for. The families of the six earlier agreed with the Navy to list them as killed in action.
A joint funeral for the 46 sailors will be held on Thursday at a naval base in Pyeongtaek, 70km south of Seoul. The president is expected to attend the ceremony.
Prime Minister Chung Un-chan on Sunday announced a five-day national mourning period after the remaining half of the Cheonan, which was broken in two, was retrieved from the sea floor a day earlier.
In his weekly meeting with his secretaries earlier Monday, the president said, "During the mourning period, all public servants should keep the sailors in mind," a tacit instruction for government officials to refrain from entertainment activities.
A large placard was hung at the entrance of the presidential compound, written in black, "The 46 proud and brave warriors of the Cheonan, the Republic of Korea will not ever forget you," with a list of each of their names.
Investigators have said the sinking was most likely caused by a "bubble jet," a powerful shockwave and high-pressure gas bubble made when a torpedo or a sea mine explodes underneath a vessel, deepening suspicions that North Korea may be behind the incident.