Ferry disaster: Confusion continues in identifying victims

Recovered bodies are moved to a temporary mortuary at Paengmok Port on Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, Wednesday.

SOUTH KOREA - Confusion reigned in hospitals in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, as some recovered bodies of ferry victims were handed over to the wrong families due to a rushed identification process.

Family members of a ferry victim had brought the recovered body of their son to their hometown of Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, to prepare for the funeral. The maritime authorities, however, notified them Wednesday that the body was that of a classmate, according to DNA test results.

This is the third case of the wrong body having been handed over since the ferry tragedy on April 16.

Currently, recovered bodies are allowed to be handed over to families after being confirmed by parents. Funerals are not held until the DNA results come out in order to confirm the identities.

Initially, the recovered bodies were only handed over after the DNA results were released. But the authorities relaxed the process as relatives complained about having to wait in Mokpo for the results.

The DNA tests were initiated after a recovered body was sent to the wrong family last week.

"Some parents may have difficulties accurately identifying their children as the bodies have been underwater for days," a maritime official was quoted as saying by a local news outlet.

In the most recent case, parents did check the son's body directly but ended up with the wrong person.

While the authorities allowed bereaved families to bring the recovered bodies to their hometowns ahead of the DNA results, they first required them to submit documents proving their relationship with the deceased.

In order to issue the documents, the government has been operating a 24-hour public office near hospitals in Mokpo.

Meanwhile, one recovered body found Monday has remained unidentified, with no family having come forward yet.

The authorities conducted a fingerprint test but were unable to identify the body, indicating that the victim was either a minor or a foreign national.

While officials released information on the appearance and characteristics of the body to locate the relatives, they have not yet come forward. Remaining unidentified, the recovered body is being called "the 37th," referring to the number that had been retrieved by that point.

Three other recovered bodies took more than two days to be matched with grieving families.