Wait for daughter's body ends on her 17th birthday

2014-10-30 10:46
File: AP

File: AP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Seoul - Hwang In-yeol and his wife waited seven years to have a child, and then she was born on 29 October 1997.

 After a ferry disaster in April that killed her and 303 others, the couple waited again for nearly seven months to see Ji-hyeon's body. The vigil ended on Wednesday when divers retrieved their only child's body on her 17th birthday.

"The saddest birthday party on the earth," read a headline in the Hankyoreh newspaper on Thursday alongside a picture showing a sobbing Hwang standing with his wife on Wednesday before a whipped-cream cake with glowing candles on it.

"Please, wait peacefully for me in heaven. Daddy will follow you soon," the 51-year-old Hwang was quoted as saying.

Divers found Ji-hyeon's body on Tuesday around a toilet in the sunken ship Sewol, but it took one day to pull it up to the surface because of strong currents and its decaying condition. The results of DNA tests released on Thursday confirmed the body belongs to Ji-hyeon.

Official death toll

Her body is the first recovered since 18 July, raising the official death toll from the 16 April sinking to 295, mostly high school students who were travelling to a southern island for a school trip. Nine others are still missing.

Hours before the body was brought up, Hwang and his wife Shim Myeong-seop threw a party to celebrate their daughter's 18th birthday at a gym on the south-western island of Jindo, where they have been staying since 16 April to be closer to the searches.

Many Asian cultures, including South Korean, count the age of the newborn baby as 1, and by that method Ji-hyeon would have celebrated her 18th birthday on Wednesday. The entire Korean media reported it as such.

The parents were confident the body was that of their daughter because of the clothes on her, according to volunteer workers helping families of the missing people.

The Hankyoreh newspaper said Hwang and his wife also offered a bowl of rice, rice cakes, sea mustard soup and pizza at the party, which was also attended by family members of the nine other missing people.

"Precious gift"

"It was a great help because so many people congratulated us on our daughter's birthday," Hwang, the father, was quoted as saying.

Ji-hyeon's body was airlifted to her hometown of Ansan, just south Seoul, on Thursday for a funeral, according to Jang Kil-hwan, the director of volunteers on Jindo Island.

Hwang did not immediately respond to calls, but in a previous interview with The Associated Press he had described Ji-hyeon as a "precious gift". During their months-long vigil in the gym in Jindo, his wife had hobbled on aching knees every morning to a lighthouse at the island's Paengmok port and thrown a few spoonful of rice into the sea. She called it breakfast for her daughter, and a prayer that divers will find her body soon.

Hwang, who works for an auto parts manufacturer, then regretted that he couldn't talk to his daughter enough before the sinking because of his long working hours.

"Ji-hyeon had a talent for painting. She was also studying Chinese with the goal of becoming a translator," Hwang had told the AP. "But I wish I knew more about my daughter than I do now."

The sinking, one of South Korea's deadliest disasters in decades, caused nationwide grief and fury, with authorities blaming overloading of cargo, improper storage, untimely rescue efforts and other negligence for the incident.

On Monday, South Korean prosecutors demanded the death penalty for the ferry's captain and life sentences for three other key crew members, blaming their negligence and abandonment of passengers for the massive loss of life. A local district court is to issue verdicts on the 15 crew members in November.

Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.

Read more on:    south korea

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.