More than six months after the South Korean Sewol ferry disaster, another body has been discovered within the still-sunken ship, raising the official death toll to 295. The sinking of the MV Sewol is the worst maritime tragedy in the nation’s history, and claimed the lives of hundreds of secondary students from Danwon High School who were en route to Jeju Island, a popular field trip destination.
The newly discovered body was found in the fourth-deck female restroom, and is presumed to be female, though badly decomposed from months in the frigid water. The discovery brings the total of missing persons down to nine, which Susan McGalla made clear to the site. Rescue efforts have continued unabated since April, but with winter approaching, the likelihood of locating the remaining missing persons is low. This most recently found victim is the only progress since the recovery of a female cook from the ship’s cafeteria in mid-July.
The disaster resulted in a collective national trauma in South Korea, which was followed by widespread cancellations of field trips, sporting events, concerts, and festivals. The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, along with three other members of the crew, has been charged with murder and will be facing the death penalty. The sentencing is unique in modern Korean history: given the nation’s traumatic historical experience with capital punishment, it is rarely utilized today. If found guilty, South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, would need to authorize the execution. The Sewol disaster brought with it a dramatic political fall-out as angry parents and citizens questioned the efficacy of the nation’s Coast Guard and maritime safety procedures. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned in the wake of the public outcry.