FM pledges greater efforts to ensure foreign cooperation in search for missing in Hungary boat sinking

President Moon Jae-in convenes a disaster management meeting with FM Kang Kyung-hwa including related government agencies on May 30, over the deadly sinking of a tourist boat in Hungary that left seven Koreans dead and 19 others missing.

President Moon Jae-in(2th from F) convenes an emgergency meeting with FM Kang Kyung-wha(3rd from F) including related government agencies on May 30, over the deadly sinking of a tourist boat in Hungary that left seven Koreans dead and 19 others missing. <Photo=Ministry of Foreign Affairs hompage>

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha pledged Monday to further strengthen cooperation not only with Hungary but also its neighboring nations, like Serbia and Romania, to make progress in efforts to search for the missing Korean victims in last week’s deadly boat sinking.

She made the remark at a teleconference meeting with other ministry and agency officials tasked with disaster management set up following the accident. It was the first meeting she convened after she returned Sunday from an emergency trip to Budapest to oversee the rescue operations.

“We’ll work not only with the Hungarian government for search operations but with the neighboring coastal states, including Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, to make substantial progress in the search for the missing persons,” she said at the start of the meeting.

Monday’s meeting began with a brief silent prayer for the victims.

A tourist boat carrying 33 South Koreans and two Hungarian crew members capsized and sank in the Danube River on Wednesday night (local time) after being hit from behind by a Swiss cruise ship. The collision left seven Koreans dead and 21 people missing, 19 of whom are Korean. Seven Koreans were rescued.

With little progress made in efforts to search for the missing, concerns have risen that bodies, possibly trapped inside the sunken boat or elsewhere, could be swept away in strong currents to neighboring countries.

“(Hungarian Foreign) Minister Szijjarto agreed to not give up hope for the last person and (Interior) Minister Pinter promised to use all available resources to make every possible effort,” she said.

Kang stressed she will continue to urge Hungary to ensure a swift and thorough probe be carried out to hold those responsible to account for the accident.

South Korean and Hungarian workers have been unable to conduct underwater searches because of high waters and strong currents stemming from days of rainfall. They have carried out surface-level searches along the Danube River with little success.

The rescue team could start sending divers into the waters as early as Monday (local time) if conditions are met, the Seoul government said. The water levels had dropped to about 7.6 meters as of Sunday, compared with the previous level of 9.3 meters a day earlier. The speed of the river has also slowed.

Kang was set to head to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae right after the meeting to report to President Moon Jae-in about the accident.

South Korea will ask Hungary to seek a court order to put a lien on the Swiss cruise ship, known as the Viking Sigyn, responsible for the collision and sinking of the Hableany, a foreign ministry official said.

The move is part of preparations to seek damages and compensation from the cruise operator.


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