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South Korea announces plans to raise sunken Sewol ferry

The South Korean government has officially endorsed a plan to raise the sunken Sewol, a key demand of the victims' families. But critics are wary of the operation and cast doubt that any new revelations will emerge.

The South Korean government formally approved plans to salvage the Sewol, a ferry that sank more than a year ago, claiming the lives of more than 300 people.

Salvaging the ferry has been a key demand of the victims' families, who hope to discover more details regarding the cause of the disaster and hopefully find nine missing bodies. However, conservatives criticized the government's plan to raise the civilian ship with tax payers' money and are skeptical that any new revelations will emerge.

Public Safety and Security Minister Park In-yong told a televised press briefing that the government had officially endorsed the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries' request to raise the sunken vessel. The government's support for the operation was expected following

President Park Geun-hye's promise

to take the "necessary steps to salvage the ship" at a

ceremony last week marking the first anniversary of the tragedy

.

"There are many technical risks and uncertainties… but we decided to lift the ship intact in line with the wishes of the families of the missing and many South Koreans," Park said during the briefing. The highly-technical operation is expected to begin as early as September after a company is selected and a "detailed salvage plan" is drawn.

The operation is expected to cost the government between $90 and $140 million (83.5 and 130 million euros).

Protests to continue

Although the government's decision is a key demand of the victims' families, they have vowed to continue protesting until a fully independent inquiry into the sinking materializes.

Violence erupted on Saturday at a rally in Seoul, leaving dozens injured. Riot police used water cannons and pepper spray to quell the protest led by the victims' families and their supporters.

The Sewol was carrying 476 passengers, including 325 high school students, when it sank April 16, 2014. Only 75 passengers survived.

ls/kms (AP, AFP)

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