May 4, 2014 8:26 am

South Korean president visits families of missing in ferry sinking

WATCH ABOVE: South Korean President Park Geun-hye went to Paengmok Harbour on Sunday to visit relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry sinking and inspect the facilities. The port in Jindo is one of the closest ports to where the ferry went down.

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Sunday told families of those missing in a sunken ferry that her heart breaks knowing what they are going through.

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Park met with some 50 relatives in Paengmok port on Jindo, an island near where the ferry sank April 16 with 476 people aboard, most of them students from a single high school. With eight bodies recovered Sunday, the death toll reached 244 with 58 still missing while 174 survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.

READ MORE: Divers search unopened rooms for missing passengers in ferry disaster

“I’ve gone through the grief of losing family, so I understand it well,” Park told relatives, referring to the violent deaths of both parents, one of whom was a South Korean dictator. She added, “My heart breaks to think about how you must feel.”

It was her second visit to the families of the ferry victims. She has previously apologized for the government’s inept initial response to the disaster, as families of the missing have repeatedly expressed fear about bodies being swept away.

Local media said that reporters were asked to leave the tent during Park’s talk with the relatives. Sounds of families crying were heard outside the tent.

Emergency task force spokesman Ko Myung-seok said that 60 out of 64 rooms on the ferry Sewol have been searched so far.

After visiting the families, Park boarded a coast guard vessel and arrived at the site where the ferry sank. Stepping on the barge, Park encouraged the divers, saying they were “the last hope” for the families.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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