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(LEAD) Funerals held for students, crew member killed in ferry disaster

2014/04/22 16:29

ANSAN, April 22 (Yonhap) -- Families and friends bade tearful farewell to their loved ones Tuesday as they held a series of funerals for 11 high school students and a crew member who were killed in the recent sinking of a ferry off South Korea's south coast.

Of the 476 passengers aboard the ferry Sewol, 325 were students of Danwon High School in Ansan, just south of Seoul, who were on a school trip to a southern resort island when their ship capsized and sank off the southwestern island of Jindo on Wednesday morning.

By Tuesday, 108 people were confirmed dead, while 194 remained unaccounted for. The other 174 passengers, including the ship's captain and most of its crew, were rescued before the vessel went under.

The bodies of three 17-year-old classmates, identified only by their surnames Kwon, Lim and Jeong, were among the first to be recovered shortly after the accident.

"How could such a tragedy happen," a weeping relative of Jeong said during the victim's funeral at Korea University Ansan Hospital.

The three classmates were cremated and buried in the same memorial park in Pyeongtaek, some 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

Funerals for eight other students also took place in succession at five different hospitals in Ansan.

"Be happy in heaven, my friend," read one note posted to the wall of a mortuary.

"I'm sorry I wasn't able to protect you," read another message.

As the hearse left for the crematorium, some of the victims' family members rode the car to Danwon High School to perform a rite for the spirits of the dead.

The father of one victim, surnamed Kim, poured a glass of wine and placed it in front of his daughter's portrait and nameplate before bowing deeply.

The mother was helped up the stairs to her daughter's empty classroom, calling out her child's name several times, but all she found were Kim's school uniform, stationery and flowers someone had laid on her desk.

Other families broke down in tears as they read notes posted to the windows of empty classrooms, calling for the students' return.

The education office of Gyeonggi Province, which has jurisdiction over Ansan, and the Ansan municipal government said they are considering building a temporary memorial altar for Danwon students and teachers who were killed in the sinking in a large park.

The mother of a student who died in the sinking of the ferry Sewol wails in front of her daughter's desk at Danwon High School in Ansan, South Korea, on April 22, 2014. (Yonhap)

The mother of a student who died in the sinking of the ferry Sewol wails in front of her daughter's desk at Danwon High School in Ansan, South Korea, on April 22, 2014. (Yonhap)

In Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, families and friends gathered for the funeral of 22-year-old crew member Park Ji-young.

The story of Park's heroic attempts to save other passengers has been widely covered in the local media, prompting online calls for her designation as a martyr.

When asked by a student why she wasn't putting on a life jacket, Park reportedly replied that the crew should be the last to leave the ship and assured the student that she would make her way out after helping the passengers to safety.

Her courage deeply moved the public especially as the captain and some other crew members were found to have been among the first to escape from the vessel.

A coffin carrying the body of Park Ji-young, a crew member who died while trying to save passengers on the ferry Sewol, is carried out of the funeral hall of a hospital in Incheon, west of Seoul, on April 22, 2014. (Yonhap)

A coffin carrying the body of Park Ji-young, a crew member who died while trying to save passengers on the ferry Sewol, is carried out of the funeral hall of a hospital in Incheon, west of Seoul, on April 22, 2014. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr

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