Diver on Sunken Korean Ferry Dies as Search Continues for Bodies

Dive boats in Jindo
Dive boats surround the site of the submerged Sewol ferry off the coast of Jindo, South Korea, on April 21. Photographer: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

A civilian diver searching for missing bodies from South Korea’s sunken ferry died in the hospital after being taken out of the water unconscious, the coast guard said.

The diver belonged to private salvage company Undine Marine Industries and joined the search operation today, Ko Myung Suk, director general of the Korea Coast Guard, said in a briefing televised on YTN news channel. The cause of death is being investigated, Ko said.

The 53-year-old man, whose family name is Lee, lost contact with the search team five minutes after submerging and was unconscious when navy divers found him, according to Yonhap News. The death toll of passengers and crew from the sinking of the Sewol on April 16 was 263 as of 10:00 a.m. today, with 39 missing, according to an e-mailed government statement.

South Korean President Park Geun Hye “apologizes and feels heavy-hearted” for families of the victims, she said at a Buddhist ceremony in Seoul today, according to a statement on the Blue House website.

Park said she feels “boundless responsibility” for both the ferry’s sinking and the government’s handling of it, as she met families May 4 at a port near the site where the ferry sank.

The boat contained 580 tons of ballast water when it capsized, compared with the 2,023 tons recommended by the Korean Register of Shipping, Yonhap reported yesterday, citing the combined investigation team of police and prosecutors. The vessel was carrying 3,608 tons of cargo, three times the appropriate amount, the agency said.

Consumer spending in South Korea has slowed since the ferry tragedy, with the disaster having a negative effect on service industries, Finance Minister Hyun Oh Seok said at a meeting today in Seoul with the heads of research institutes, according to an e-mailed statement from the government.

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