Obama sends his condolences to Korea

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Obama sends his condolences to Korea

Korea received an outpouring of support from leaders across the globe, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who expressed his condolences after a ferry carrying more than 400 people capsized on Wednesday in waters off the southwestern coast, leaving hundreds still missing.

The 6,825-ton Sewol sank early Wednesday morning en route from an Incheon port to Jeju Island, carrying 475 passengers, most of them high school students who were on a class field trip, and several international travelers.

The Korean Foreign Ministry said that there was a female Russian student onboard who attended Danwon High School, as well as two Filipinos who were rescued on Thursday. The girl is still missing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also expressed deep condolences. In a letter addressed to Korean President Park Geun-hye, Xi said: “I am highly concerned about this. .?.?. [China] stands ready to provide necessary support and assistance to South Korea.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed yesterday that four Chinese nationals were among those missing, including a student, and that it send officials to the accident scene.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Korean authorities had confirmed that a Chinese vehicle was on the ferry and that two Chinese nationals were speculated to have been in the car. She added that an official from the Chinese Consulate General had arrived at the scene of the accident and was working with Korean authorities to verify that information.

Obama said in a statement released by the White House on Thursday, “Our hearts ache to see our Korean friends going through such a terrible loss, especially the loss of so many young students.” He is scheduled to visit Korea next week after traveling to Tokyo.

Speaking on behalf of himself, first lady Michelle Obama and the American people, the president offered his “deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the tragic ferry sinking,” and pledged Washington’s full support in ongoing search and rescue efforts.

He added that the U.S. Marines and Navy personnel were on the scene offering assistance and aid. The USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship, and MH-60 Seahawk helicopters joined search efforts yesterday. The U.S. Navy ship, had been conducting a routine patrol in the Yellow Sea when the Sewol capsized.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also expressed his “sympathies to those affected and their families,” in a speech at a symposium in Tokyo yesterday and told his cabinet members to fully cooperate if Korea requested help in rescue operations, Japanese media reported.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed a letter to President Park, in which he wrote: “It is especially heart wrenching that many on the ferry are young students, whose excursion to a resort ended so tragically.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Elbashir, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among other world leaders that echoed those sentiments.

Foreign ministries in countries including Switzerland, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada and France also issued statements expressing their condolences and offers of support.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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