SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea on Wednesday formally approved plans to salvage a ferry that sank last year in a disaster that killed more than 300 people.
Raising the ferry Sewol is one of demands made by bereaved families, who hope that might help reveal details about the cause of the sinking and find bodies of the nine people still missing. Critics are skeptical that salvaging the ship will provide new revelations and find the missing.
The bodies of 295 people have already been recovered. Most of the victims were high schools students who were on a trip to a southern resort island.
Public Safety and Security Minister Park In-yong told a televised briefing that the government endorsed a request by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries to hoist the ship from the seafloor off the country's southwest coast.
The endorsement was widely expected as President Park Geun-hye last week promised to salvage the ship during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the disaster.
Park's government had faced criticism from relatives of the victims and their supporters, who say officials were reluctant to start work to lift the ship due to expected high costs. In the first several months after the sinking, relatives had opposed raising the ship because they worried that would damage the bodies of those believed trapped inside the submerged ship or allow them to be swept away.
Salvaging the ship is estimated to cost between $91 and $137 million and take as long as 18 months, according to the oceans ministry.