Body of missing sailor recovered
The body of Senior Chief Petty Officer Nam Ki-hoon, 35, was recovered at around 6:10 p.m. inside the petty officers’ mess hall in the stern of the 1,200-ton Navy corvette Cheonan, which sank on March 26 in the waters off Baengyeong Island near the inter-Korean maritime border with the North, the officials said.
Out of 104 crew members on board, 46 have been missing since the ship tore in two after an unexplained blast and sank.
For more than a week, poor weather conditions - rough currents and high waves - have hampered efforts to find the missing sailors.
Han Joo-ho, a 53-year-old Navy warrant officer and a member of the underwater demolition team, died during a rescue operation. His funeral was held earlier today at the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi.
After two-meter high waves earlier prevented them from going underwater, divers resumed their search in the afternoon.
They reached the entrance of the mess hall in the rear section of the split ship and are expected to recover more bodies there, according to military officials.
Nam worked as a senior member of the sunken ship's fire control team. He is survived by his wife and three sons.
His body is expected to be transferred to a hospital via helicopter, according to the military.
Family members of the missing sailors, now staying together at Second Naval Fleet facilities in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, have clung to hope that their loved ones may have survived inside the Cheonan. They were devastated to hear that Nam was confirmed dead.
"I've held on to a glimmer of hope, but the unthinkable is becoming real," one family member said.
The cause of the explosion on the Cheonan is yet to be determined.
A 2,000-ton floating crane that will be used to lift the corvette from the sea bottom has arrived near Socheong Island, south of where the Cheonan submerged.
During a parliamentary hearing Friday, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said he thinks a torpedo attack is the most likely cause of the sinking, which some had speculated was caused by a mine. He did not say whether he suspected North Korea to be behind the blast.
By Lee Min-yong [email@example.com]
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