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South Korean President Park Geun-hye has promised to raise the Sewol ferry, as the Asian country marks a year since the disaster.

A total of 304 people, mostly school students, were killed when the Sewol ferry – which was overloaded and illegally redesigned – sank off Jindo island.

The disaster triggered nationwide grief and outrage and led to severe criticism of safety standards and rescue efforts.

Divers have recovered all but nine of the bodies. Relatives say the ship must be raised and their remains found.

The government says salvaging the ship will cost $110 million and has previously refused to commit to doing so.

However, President Park Guen-hye, speaking at a port in Jindo, said she would take “the necessary steps to salvage the ship at the earliest possible date”.

South Korea’s legislative National Assembly adopted a resolution calling on the government to ensure the Sewol ferry’s speedy recovery, which it said “is the path toward healing the minds of the victims, survivors and bereaved families… as well as those of all the citizens”, reported Yonhap.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Memorial ceremonies are being held in some 300 places across South Korea.

The largest took place in the afternoon at a hall in Ansan city, the home of the students. A private ceremony will also take place at their school in the evening.

In the morning, PM Lee Wan-koo was prevented from entering the memorial hall by angry relatives of those who died.

Investigators say the Sewol ferry sank after an inexperienced crew member made too fast a turn. The combination of an illegal redesign and overloaded cargo meant the ship was unstable.

However, some relatives say they want an independent and more thorough inquiry into the disaster, which sparked countrywide debate about regulatory failings and official incompetence.

Most of the crew of the Sewol survived.

The captain and three senior crew members have since been given long jail terms for failing to adequately protect passengers, while 11 other crew members were also imprisoned.

The captain of the first coast guard vessel on scene was also jailed for negligence relating to the botched rescue effort.

Separate trials were held for employees of the ferry operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co. The company’s billionaire owner, Yoo Byung-eun, disappeared after the disaster and was eventually found dead.