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W11b budget approved for Sewol investigation panel

The government approved a budget of 11.5 billion won ($9 million) for a state panel tasked to investigate a 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. 

The panel kicked off its official operations on July 7 amid lingering questions over the exact cause of the sinking, which killed more than 300 passengers. 

Consisting of some 35 government officials and 15 private experts, the committee has a six month mandate, extended by another four months.
The focus of its upcoming probe will be why the ship sank and so many were not rescued. The wreckage has been lifted out of water and moved onto land in April, some three years after it sank in a calm sea near Jindo Island on April 16, 2014.

State prosecutors, in the same year, have concluded after an investigation that a combination of four factors -- overloaded freight, displacement of cargo, the staff’s lack of experience and the outdated facilities of the ship, were the cause behind the deadly disaster.

An underwater search for missing victims and evidence from the wreckage will take place simultaneously. A separate search team, who combed the salvaged ship’s cabin and deck areas for the past three months, is expected to launch a second round of the search, focusing on cargo departments. 

So far, the remains of four missing passengers were identified -- three from the inside of the ferry and one from under the sea. Five other passengers are still unaccounted for. 

By Kim Da-sol (