Monday marks the 97th day since the ferry Sewol sank off the southwest coast on April 16. Last Friday, divers found the body of a female crewmember in the kitchen of the wreck. With the discovery of Lee Myo-hee (56), 10 passengers remain missing, while the death toll stands at 294 out of 476 passengers.
Search operations for victims aboard the Sewol are unprecedented in the world. In 1994, the MS Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea, killing 852 out of 989 passengers. Only 94 bodies were recovered. Most of the victims were Swedes, and following a decision by an ethics committee, the government of Sweden opted to scrap search operations due to the extreme depth of the ocean where the accident occurred.
So far more than 40,000 divers have taken part in search operations. Divers have risked their lives in rapid currents and low visibility to search for more bodies. Experienced U.S. divers arrived at the scene with cutting-edge equipment to assist but left without even dipping a toe in the water after assessing the conditions and currents.
In May, a civilian search diver died from the bends, while a helicopter carrying firefighters who supported search operations crashed last week, killing all five rescue workers aboard.
At present, only one of the 111 compartments inside the sunken ferry remain unsearched due to the debris piled up in front of the entrance. Divers must cut through the walls in order to access it.
Just after the tragedy, the families of the missing passengers frequently voiced their frustration and complaints at Coast Guard officials and divers. But now, they thank them. While fully aware of the extremely hazardous conditions divers face, the families would be willing to give anything to find even a trace of their loved ones. The government should be aware of this and offer every support to find the missing passengers. Only then should it tell the grieving families that it has done all it can.