JINDO, South Korea - In a last terrified, tearful call to his elder sister, 16-year-old Kim Dong-Hyup promised to get off the sinking ferry alive.
Four days later, his family still can't accept the missing high school student may never come home.
Even as divers began retrieving bodies from the submerged ferry that capsized and sank on Wednesday morning, Kim's father refused to give up hope.
"He's always been such a strong-willed boy. I really believe he'll make it somehow," Kim Chang-Gu, 46, told AFP.
"When he comes back home, I'll buy him a lot of chicken. Chicken is his favourite. When he left for the trip, I bought him two chickens but he couldn't finish them off," Kim said.
The teenager was one of 352 students from Danwon High School in Ansan city, just south of Seoul, who were on the ferry bound for the popular holiday island of Jeju.
The precise cause of the disaster is still under investigation, but shortly after the ferry sent out a distress call it began to list sharply to one side.
Within 30 minutes it was at a 90 degree angle and then inverted completely before sinking.
The first the family knew of the unfolding tragedy was a call Kim Dong-Hyup made to his elder sister, Kim Ha-Na.
"He said the situation was getting more and more serious, with the ship lying on its side," his 22-year-old sister recalled.