South Korea ferry disaster: Civilian divers scouring the Sewol wreckage are being ‘paid by the body’, presidential office suggests

Comments made to journalists in Jindo spark new wave of public outrage

A spokesperson for the South Korean president has sparked further controversy over the sinking of the Sewol ferry by apparently suggesting that civilian divers are being paid “by the body” for their work in the recovery effort.

Speaking at a press event on the island of Jindo, near where the ferry sank on 16 April, Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook reportedly said the government had agreed a deal with private companies where they get a fee up front and then further bonuses for each corpse recovered.

Min was quoted by the state-run Yonhap news agency as telling reporters: “Civilian divers are paid 1 million won (£580) per day and 5 million won (£2,900) for retrieving each dead body.”

Of the 476 people who were on board the Sewol when it sank, 288 have been confirmed dead. Teams of civilian and military divers are still searching for 16 people listed as missing.

The government of President Park Geun-hye has already faced on outpouring of public anger amid claims more could have been done to save lives, and Min’s alleged comments provoked a further storm of criticism online.

Undine Marine Industries, a private company appointed by the government to lead the search effort, has reportedly denied being paid because, a spokesperson was quoted as saying, human life “cannot be measured by money”.

Some divers have previously said they are giving up their time voluntarily, and a representative yesterday told the Korea Times the claims of a “pay-per-body” system were “insulting” and untrue.

Bae Hui-cheol, a lawyer representing the family emergency committee in Jindo, said the families of those missing were “incredulous” but refused to comment further because there was no official recording of what Min actually said.

“If the spokesman’s words are true,” one Twitter user was quoted as saying, a parliamentary investigation must be conducted on Choeng Wa Dae [the presidential office] as well.”

Meanwhile, South Korean police confirmed they have offered an official bounty of half a million dollars (£300,000) for information about the billionaire Yoo Byung-eun, who prosecutors say owned the sunken ferry and has since fled.

Yoo, head of the now-defunct predecessor of the ferry's current operator, Chonghaejin, allegedly still controls the company through a complex web of holding companies in which his children and close associates are large shareholders. Senior prosecutor Kim Hoe-jong said authorities believe Yoo is the chairman of Chonghaejin.

Five Chonghaejin employees have already been arrested, after the authorities said they suspect improper stowage and the overloading of cargo may have contributed to the disaster.

Prosecutors earlier this month indicted 15 crew members tasked with the ship's navigation, four of whom will face charges of manslaughter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living