President Moon Jae-in pledged Sunday to find the truth about the deadly sinking of the Sewol ferry, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of one of the nation's worst maritime disasters.
The ship capsized in waters off the country's southwestern island of Jindo on April 16, 2014, killing 304, mostly teenagers on a school trip. A joint funeral service for 11 victims will be held on Monday. They are among the 43 non-student casualties.
"Before the bereaved families and the nation, who are in for deep sorrow once again in the joint funeral service, I pledge to uncover the truth of Sewol completely," Moon said on Facebook.
He said the search for the remains of five victims will resume as soon as the wreck of the 6,825-ton ferry is erected upright next month. The rusty body was raised early last year and now lies on its side at the southwestern port of Mokpo.
A 2014 probe concluded the sinking was caused by a combination of cargo overloading, an illegal redesign of the ship and the steersman's poor helmsmanship. Moon said a special inquiry committee will thoroughly reinvestigate the cause of the incident.
"We have changed after the Sewol tragedy. We have to regard life as our foremost value and share the pains of neighbors," he said.
Moon said the government will build a memorial park in a way that symbolizes the value of life and safety as society's priority. The park will be built in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, where the student victims' school is located.
The government will hold discussions with the victims' families and collect public opinions on how best to use the wrecked ferry so that it can help upgrade the nation's safety awareness.
The joint funeral for the 11 passengers will be held in a park in the western port city of Incheon with participation of some 300 people including officials, families and citizens. A separate memorial service will also be held in Ansan.