The welfare of civilian divers who risked their lives to help find victims’ bodies from the Sewol ferry sinking is among many issues that arose from last April’s tragedy.
When the ferry sank in April 2014, dozens of professional and amateur civilian divers headed to Jindo island in South Korea's southwest thinking they were prepared for the potential dangers of the rescue mission that awaited them.
But the divers would find themselves battling months of bad weather and fast currents. Murky conditions underwater also meant they had to feel their way around the ship due to low-to-zero visibility, and to avoid being hit by floating objects at the same time.
Despite the dangerous conditions, some did as many as five dives a day, often with little concern for their own safety, hoping to recover as many people as possible.
"The Sewol site is not only deep, but the tidal current is so strong,” said Jung Yong-hyun, Head, Korea Diving Industry Institute. “The uldolmok (tidal power station) made famous by the Battle of Myeongnyang is nearby. But these divers overcame such strong tidal currents and dived in, thinking of the victims' families.
Not all survived the mission. Two civilian divers died after losing consciousness during the search. And for many of the other divers, the past 12 months have been tough.
"I am afraid to be in dark places alone because the images run through my head,” said diver Kim Kwan-hong. “So I keep going out to meet people in wide open spaces and move around. If I walk around, I think of it less."
BODIES DECAYED "BEYOND RECOGNITION"
Nothing could have prepared Mr Kim and many of his fellow divers for coming face-to-face with the bodies. Said another diver, Kim Sang-woo: "I dived in with a sad heart, thinking of the children, but entering the hull is frightening work. The state of the bodies goes beyond our imagination. They have decayed beyond recognition."
Mr Kim Dong-soo is also suffering from the trauma of last year's dives. He was a hero for saving more than 10 people from the sinking ferry. But the recognition has done little to assuage his guilt.
He was back in the news last month after he attempted suicide. He says he cannot forgive himself for not having saved more lives. Police say he has suffered mentally, physically and financially, due to the lack of government assistance after completing the mission. He is now receiving treatment.
The search and recovery operation ended in November. The ship remains submerged in the waters off Jindo.
As the country marks the first anniversary of the sinking of Sewol, many have returned to Jindo to see what has happened since. For them, being at the site of the tragedy has triggered memories of the Apr 16 disaster, when more than 300 passengers, mostly high school students, died as the ferry listed and sank to the bottom of the sea.