Korean ferry tragedy: Nation in grief

Korean ferry tragedy: Nation in grief
Family members of missing students who were on the South Korean ferry "Sewol" which sank in the sea off Jindo attend a candlelight vigil at Danwon High School in Ansan April 16, 2014.

As the death toll creeps up and hope fades for about 240 missing passengers on the submerged ferry, grief and despair are sweeping through the nation. Many South Koreans opt for donations and volunteer work over spring festivals, weekend getaways and Easter celebrations.

At the frontline of the rescue efforts, the families of the missing have been camping out on Jindo Island off the southwestern coast since the Sewol capsized and sank there.

But it is the entire population, not only the relatives, that is grasping at straws. For many, it was like losing a family member or close friend.

"I just can't stay focused at work when thinking of the victims, especially the students," says Yoon So-ra, a 30-year-old company employee.

Some 320 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, were among the 476 on board.

"Most of them were so young that they have yet to get their fingerprints registered, which means it would take much longer to confirm their identities even if their bodies have been found."

Oh Mi-jin, a 37-year-old mother of two, expressed deep regret that the ferry operators and maritime authorities didn't respond much better in the initial moments after the accident.

"Prevention must have been possible, or they could have been able to minimise the casualties at least," she says.

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