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May 30, 2017

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Sewol victims' parents protest near Blue House

SEOUL -- Parents of high school students killed in South Korea's ferry disaster descended Friday on the presidential Blue House, holding portraits of their lost children and demanding a meeting with President Park Geun-hye.

After they were blocked by hundreds of police, some in riot gear, dozens of the parents — backed by scores of supporters — staged a sit-in at a street corner, a few hundred meters from the Blue House.

Although the meeting with Park never materialized, a few families representatives were allowed into the Blue House to talk to some of the president's senior advisers.

Armored vehicles with water cannon were on stand-by nearby as the parents sat throughout most of the day, clutching framed photos of their children, who perished when the Sewol ferry sank with the loss of around 300 lives last month.

Their demonstration began late Thursday night as a protest outside state-funded KBS-TV after comments by a senior editor that the death toll from the Sewol was far lower than the number of those killed every year on South Korea's roads.

Shortly before dawn, they decided to march to the Blue House to demand a meeting with Park.

Eventually KBS President Gil Hwan-young came to address the relatives and personally apologize, saying the editor in question would resign.

The parents then decided to disperse peacefully.

The victims' families have been extremely critical of nearly every aspect of the government's handling of the disaster.

They want explanations for perceived delays in the initial rescue effort, and are calling for those they believe responsible to be punished.

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