November 14, 2017 12:45
The families of the last five passengers who remain missing in the 2014 ferry disaster have given up hope that their loved ones will ever be found and left their temporary shelter in Mokpo port. They had been camped out there for some 1,300 days hoping to hear news that some remains of their loved ones would be found in the salvaged ship or surrounding waters.
But they have now decided that it would be selfish to insist that the search continue. One said that it made him feel guilty to keep up the demands after "huge amounts of taxes" were spent in the search operation.
Hundreds of thousands of workers were deployed in the search for victims. Close to a hundred divers were injured as they conducted their dangerous search in murky waters that are notorious for their rapid undercurrents, and two died. The operation to salvage the sunken ferry cost the government more than W100 billion, while the total cost including compensation for the victims' families is estimated at more than W600 billion (US$1=W1,122).
But the search could not be called off without the consent of the families of the missing. The sadness and sense of loss they have endured is beyond imagination. Their decision to leave the port commands the utmost respect.
More than 1,200 days have passed since tents were set up in Gwanghwamun in downtown Seoul paying tribute to the victims, and nowadays hardly any visitors stop by. Yet Seoul city officials are wary of closing down the tents.
The government says it may launch another investigation into what caused the ferry to sink. But this is not the time to try and win more political mileage from the tragedy. It is time to let the families find closure.
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