Published : 2013-07-30 21:14
Updated : 2013-07-30 21:36
Nagano Prefecture, Japan (Yonhap) -- Four South Korean climbers who went missing in inclement weather during a group mountaineering trip in Japan were found dead Tuesday in the mountain range, officials said.
Local police earlier found the bodies of the four near mountain trails connecting Mount Hinokio and Mount Hoken in the Nagano prefecture, officials at the South Korean consulate general in Niigata said.
The area is part of a mountain range commonly known as the Central Alps.
The four, who are part of a group of 20 South Korean amateur climbers aged 48 to 78, disappeared after being separated from the group on Monday amid a rain storm and thick fog, they said.
The other 16 in the group have been confirmed safe, officials added.
Tuesday, they said. Police then discovered the body of a fourth victim, Lee Jong-sik, at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff on Mount Hoken.
The officials said the bodies of the three victims have been airlifted out, but Lee's body is expected to be retrieved later this week due to rough weather.
Meanwhile, four bereaved family members plan to visit Japan to bring back the victims' bodies Wednesday, according to an official from the South Korean tourist agency which organized the trip.
The agency added it will take about a week to return the bodies, and said it will continue to discuss details on funeral ceremonies afterwards with the family members.
The Central Alps is home to a number of high peaks, which are popular destinations for climbers and foreign tourists. It is also the country's most prominent mountain range, running through the central Japanese island of Honshu in a north-south direction.