World Bulletin/News Desk
The South Korean president paid her respects Sunday to victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a port near the site where the ship went down.
Park Geun-hye walked slowly along an official joint memorial altar set up at Hwarang Lake Park in Ansan, Gyeonggi province, looking at the rows of portraits of the victims and then laid a flower in front of them.
She told family members that she felt a “boundless responsibility” for the boat's sinking and the government’s handling of it, according to a goverment statement. “I’ll punish those responsible for the accident and any who committed crimes,” she added
The ferry sank April 16 with 476 people on board – mostly high school students - on route from Incheon port off the nation's southwestern coast to the resort island of Jeju off the nation's southwestern coast.
With most of the 6,825-ton ship’s hull lying on a muddy seabed, the search-and-rescue operation for missing passengers has since turned into a grueling recovery of corpses, with divers having to smash through closed cabin doors blocked by debris.
The coast guard said Sunday that 14 more bodies had been found over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 242, with 60 people still missing.
Coast guards have also expressed reservations that not all victims’ bodies may be recovered from the sunken vessel.
Early Sunday, the president - holding a white chrysanthemum and wearing a black dress - lit incense, bowed her head in silent tribute and then signed a memorial book.
“I pay my deepest respects to all who lost their lives in this sudden tragedy and with bowed head I humbly pray for the eternal repose of their souls,” she wrote.
Later, at a meeting with families of the victims, she promised the government would ensure their sacrifice would not go in vain and learn from the tragedy.
The Sewol disaster stands to rank among the worst - if not the worst - of the Asian nation's shipping disasters. The last major ferry disaster in the country was in 1993, when 292 of 362 passengers died in the Yellow Sea in North Jeolla Province.Last Mod: 04 Mayıs 2014, 15:53