(Clarifies gymnasium is near the school, paragraph 2)
By Ju-min Park and James Pearson
ANSAN, South Korea/SEOUL, April 25 A floral
tribute to the children who drowned in a sinking South Korean
ferry features photographs of the victims in their school
uniforms and lines of empty spaces waiting to be filled with
photos as the confirmed death toll rises.
The pictures, flowers and spaces are banked up the entire
wall of a gymnasium near their school on the outskirts of Seoul.
"There are too many pictures, way more than I thought," said
crying university student Jung Sun-a, 24. "And they are too
young in these pictures. I really hope they can fulfil their
dream in the next life. And I hope the missing kids will also
come back to their parents as soon as possible."
One wailing old woman shouted out for her granddaughter,
"Bomi is still in darkness. She hasn't come home yet. What
are we going to do? I came here to ask you. She is still in dark
waters. What am I supposed to do?"
The Sewol ferry, weighing almost 7,000 tons, sank on a
routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the
southern holiday island of Jeju. Investigations are focused on
human error and mechanical failure.
More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers
from the Danwon High School, in Ansan, have died or are missing
and presumed dead after the April 16 disaster.
The confirmed death toll on Friday was 181.
Classes at the high school resumed on Thursday in sombre
mood. Children filed past the floral tribute, offering white
chrysanthemums. Yellow ribbons, with names and messages
inscribed, were tied around a fence.
In the classrooms of the missing, friends posted messages on
desks, blackboards and windows, in the days after disaster
struck, asking for the safe return of their friends.
One note was stuck to the window of an empty classroom in
the days when hopes for finding the passengers alive were fading
fast. It was addressed to a girl called Si-yeon.
"Si-yeon, It's me, your oppa (male friend). I miss you a
lot. I am so worried. Please come out of that ferry. We ought to
go and eat your favourite things, sweet potatoes, cheese and
tangerines," it read.
"It must be really cold in there. I am so sorry that I
cannot do anything for you. It makes me feel so frustrated -
there is nothing else I can do but pray for you. I don't even
want to imagine how scared you must be. I hope you are alive. I
won't give up, I will wait for you. I want to tell you that I
CREW MEMBERS ARRESTED
Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members who
abandoned ship after telling the children to stay put in their
cabins have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also
charged with undertaking an "excessive change of course without
One crew member said after a brief appearance in court on
Thursday she and six colleagues had been "under command" to
abandon ship. Another was asked if there was any discussion
about trying to save the children.
"At that moment, we were on the third floor and except for
the third floor situation, we weren't aware of anything else,"
the crew member said.
Prosecutors said on Thursday they had raided two shipping
watchdogs, the Korean Shipping Association and the Korean
Register of Shipping, as part of their expanded investigation.
They also raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a
family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, the company
that operated the Sewol. They had also seized another ferry run
by the company to check for safety.
The ship, 146 metres (479 ft) long and 22 metres wide, was
more than three times overloaded, according to official
recommendations, with cargo poorly stowed and inadequate
Moon Ki-han, an executive at Uryeon (Union Transport Co.),
the firm that supervised cargo loading, told Reuters there were
105 containers onboard, some of which toppled into the sea as
the ship listed.
Forty-five were loaded on to the front deck and 60 into the
lower decks, Moon said. In total, the ship was carrying 3,600
metric tons of cargo including containers, vehicles and other
goods, he said.
A member of parliament this week said the Korean Register of
Shipping recommended a load of 987 tons for the Sewol.
(Writing by Nick Macfie)