"I believe that it is now time to earnestly prepare to salvage," the President says
Victims' families have repeatedly called for the wreck to be recovered
A year after the Sewol ferry sank beneath the waves, taking hundreds of people with it, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Thursday that the moment had come to get ready to raise the wreck from the deep.
“I believe that it is now time to earnestly prepare to salvage,” Park said during a speech marking the one year anniversary of the disaster.
She pledged that authorities would carry out “necessary procedures swiftly so that the ferry can be salvaged as soon as possible.”
Her comments answer repeated calls from the families of victims to recover the ship. They say they want it raised so that the sinking can be thoroughly investigated.
There are also nine victims’ bodies still missing. Most of the 304 people killed in the disaster were high school students on a field trip.
The salvage of the wreck has been deemed technically possible, Park said. But it will remain a challenging task.
A recent technical study from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said such a recovery effort has never been done before, citing the size and weight of the passenger ferry and the strength of the underwater currents in the Yellow Sea.
The study, released last week, said the Sewol, which is more than 20 years old, could fall apart in the process.
The safest way to raise the wreck and look for the missing bodies would be to use a floating dock and cranes, the study said, warning the recovery effort would probably take more than a year and a half.
’The path toward healing’
Ahead of Park’s speech, the National Assembly passed a measure calling for the recovery of the ship, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
“Setting aside cost issues, the recovery of the ferry Sewol is the path toward healing the minds of the victims, survivors and bereaved families who suffered pain from the Sewol sinking as well as those of all the citizens,” the parliamentary resolution said, according to Yonhap.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries study estimated that the salvage effort could cost as much as 200 billion won ($184 million).
CNN’s K.J. Kwon reported from Seoul, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Paula Hancocks and Brian Walker contributed to this report.