Raising Sewol: Seeking Evidence and Closure

Family members looking on as the Sewol recovery process begins. (Source: Getty Images)
Family members looking on as the Sewol recovery process begins. (Source: Getty Images)

By Tom Norris, Contributing Writer

March 27, 2017 - Three years ago, the nation watched in horror as the Sewol ferry slowly sank, claiming the lives of 304 passengers, mostly students. With efforts to recover the ferry beginning this week, authorities hope to discover new evidence as to why the ship sank and bring closure for the families of the victims.

In order to preserve key evidence of the wreckage, and to recover nine bodies thought to be still trapped inside, experts are attempting to raise the ship using a ‘tandem-lifting’ method. The lifting technique, which has never been tested before on a ship of Sewol’s size, will be used to recover the ship in one piece- a central demand of both investigators and family members of the victims.

Raising the 140-meter long ferry, thought to weigh 16,250 tons due to water and accumulated sand, will be a two-week long process and depend heavily on weather conditions. If all goes smoothly, then officials plan to hoist the wreckage and tug it to Mokpo harbor for inspection on April 5.

The recovery, if successful, will bring new evidence for the investigatory team charged with determining the cause of the tragedy. At the same time, salvaging Sewol will bring some form of closure to the hundreds of families.

Some family members have been living in makeshift homes in Paengmok, the port closest to the site of the wreck, ever since the day of the tragedy. To them, a complete recovery of Sewol may mark a beginning of their own personal recovery from their immense loss.