Posted April. 16, 2010 08:28,
Seven crewmen`s bodies from the stern of the sunken naval ship Cheonan were recovered yesterday, 20 days after the vessel sank following a mysterious explosion that split it in two near Baengnyeong Island.
The search continues for the remaining 37 missing sailors. Two bodies were also found prior to the lifting of the stern.
The identities of the seven corpses were confirmed to be those of Yim Jae-yeop, 26; Seo Dae-ho, 21; Bahng Il-min, 24l; Lee Sang-joon, 20; Lee Sang-min, 22; Kang Hyeon-gu, 21; and Ahn Dong-hyeop, 22. Ahn was found in the bedroom of the engine room, Yim at the ammunition box under a 76-millimeter cannon, and the rest in the dining room.
Bodies whose identities were confirmed were sent to a morgue at the 2nd Naval Fleet headquarters in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, via helicopter. A private and military joint investigation team is trying to identify the cause of the sinking by taking photos of the ships cut and bottom sections after the wreckage was loaded onto a barge.
After the search for the missing and recovery of bodies ended, the barge moved the stern to the 2nd Naval Fleets headquarters at 8 p.m. escorted by two speed boats and one patrol ship.
Using three chains tied to the stern, a huge crane began lifting the submerged ship at 9 a.m. in waters 1.4 kilometers off Baengnyeong Island. The salvage work took three hours and 10 minutes. After the upper part of the stern was lifted, water inside the stern began to be drained by pumps while the wreckage was pulled out of the water gradually one meter per minute. Under this process, the salvage operation temporarily stopped as part of the barge was damaged because it could not endure the weight of the wreckage.
President Lee Myung-bak held an emergency meeting at the presidential office in the afternoon. After receiving a briefing on the salvage work, he said, This is really regrettable. Id hoped that at least one survivor would be found. The country will remember them forever to not render their dedication and sacrifice useless.
He also said, I cannot find words to console the bereaved families. The people have the same feeling as mine. The families of the victims have shown the right path for the country by making difficult decisions despite their grief. A probe is underway to find the exact cause of the incident under international cooperation. We should gain trust from the (Korean) public and the international community through a thorough and scientific investigation and verification.