Seven days after hundreds of excited school children set off aboard the ferry Sewol to Jeju Island, most will never come back and a country has been left devastated by grief.
Thousands of mourners have paid tearful respects at a temporary memorial to the hundreds of student victims of South Korea’s ferry disaster.
As the relatives of the missing began their daily vigil at the harbour on Jindo island, where bodies recovered from the disaster site are brought, others converged on a temporary memorial to the victims in Ansan, 320km to the north.
Ansan has become a focal point of national mourning. The city is home to the Danwon High School which had 352 students and a dozen teachers on the Sewol when it capsized.
Nearly 280 students are among the dead and missing, and the loss of so many young lives is compounding the tragedy.
The memorial, set up in an indoor sports stadium, was opened Wednesday and comprised a giant altar in the form of a terraced bank of flowers — white, yellow and green chrysanthemums — among which rested the framed pictures and names of students whose funerals have already taken place.
Above the floral wall a large banner carried the message: “We pray for the souls of the departed.”
The cause of the capsize is still being investigated, with the government under strong public pressure to find out what happened.