Heartrending stories of missing victims

SEOUL • High-school student Huh Da Yoon had wanted to become a kindergarten teacher and had always made time for volunteer work at a kindergarten during her school vacation.

A day before that fateful trip to Jeju, she had asked to take along her father's black hat.

"Everything was recovered - including the hat, her clothes and her shoes - except for her body," her mother, Ms Park Eun Mi, told Korea Times.

She was among a group of family members who watched the salvage operation of the Sewol overnight from a government ship earlier this week.

The sinking on April 16, 2014, claimed the lives of 304 people, mostly high-school students aged between 16 and 17.

 

Nine bodies are still missing, including four students and two teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, south of Seoul, the South Korean capital. It is thought that their bodies may be trapped inside the sunken ship.

Another missing victim is student Park Young In. His family said he had a bubbly personality and was always cheering up those around him.

"Unlike most boys his age, he helped me with household chores and also had a great relationship with his father," said his mother.

She added that Young In's dream was to become a professional athlete.

Shortly before the trip, he had asked his mother to buy him a pair of soccer shoes, but she did not.

After the sinking of the Sewol in waters off Jindo, she bought a pair of soccer shoes and took them to Paengmok Port, which is the closest one to the wreck.

Only Young In's bag and the training clothes inside it were recovered.

The students from Danwon High School in Ansan were on a school trip to Jeju Island. The school has kept the desks and chairs of the two teachers and four students whose bodies have not been recovered, reported Korea Herald.

Ms Lee Geum Hee said her daughter, Cho Eun Hwa, was worried that the cost of the school trip - 327,000 won (S$409) - would strain her family's finances.

The straight-As student was always thinking about her mother, according to Ms Lee. "I brought some barnacles from Paengmok Port and laid it on her desk in her room. I thought those were things that were closest to where my daughter was," the mother told Korea Times.

The parents of Nam Hyun Chul left his guitar near Paengmok Port with the words "Son, mum and dad will live with you for the rest of our lives" written on it.

Two teachers from Danwon High School - Mr Ko Chang Seok and Mr Yang Seung Jin - were remembered as heroes who sacrificed their lives to save the students, reported the local media.

Mr Yang, a 57-year-old ethics education leader and a social studies teacher, told the students to escape from the sinking ferry while he kept going back to save more of them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Heartrending stories of missing victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe