THE South Korean government has confirmed the recovered Sewol ferry has been moved onto land, marking the final stage of the transfer almost three years after it sank.
According to Yonhap news, the recovery team moved the ship onto a dry dock at a port in the southwestern province of Mokpo as of 1pm on Sunday.
The work to salvage the ferry started at 9am on Sunday with some 600 module transporters involved carrying the wreckage in order to lift and move the vessel to land carefully.
The ferry sank off the southwestern coast near Jindo Island on April 16, 2014, resulting in the deaths of 304 people, mostly children on a school trip. The remains of nine victims have yet to be recovered.
Back in March, news broke remains found from the salvaged ferry could have come from at least one unrecovered victim. However, forensic examinations conducted showed the bone fragments came from an animal.
The National Forensic Service says the seven fragments found, ranging from 4cm (1.6 inches) to 18cm (7 inches) in length, appeared to have emerged through the vessel’s windows.
The news of the discovery came as the families of those onboard, as well as officials, hope to find the last nine bodies.
Family members had attended a memorial service for the missing, which was held near the vessel. Catholic and Protestant pastors, as well as Buddhist monks, offered prayers.
“Eun-hwa, let’s go home. Mommy will find you quickly. You should hang in there a bit to meet mommy,” Lee Kum-hee, whose daughter Cho Eun-hwa is among the missing, said at the service, as she threw yellow roses into the sea as tribute.
The ferry disaster is one of the worst in South Korean history and the botched rescue and death toll of children has shocked and angered people in the country. As a result, then-president Park Geun-hye and her administration were the focus of so much ire at that time.
Park has vehemently denied accusations she failed to act decisively and swiftly. However, many South Koreans feel she has never explained in detail what she was doing during the seven hours between the first news reports and her first television appearance that day.
The captain of the ferry was found guilty of homicide back in 2015 and jailed for life, while more than half a dozen other crew members were given shorter sentences.
The government says the salvage operation costs about KRW85 billion (US$75 million).