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May 30, 2017

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Hunger-striking father of S. Korean ferry victim hospitalized

SEOUL -- The father of one of the high school students killed in South Korea's ferry disaster was hospitalized Friday after mounting a 40-day hunger strike to demand a full independent inquiry.

Kim Young-oh, who lost his 16-year-old daughter when the Sewol ferry capsized in April, was sent to a hospital from Seoul's central Gwanghwamun Square, where he had been protesting, Park Yong-woo, a spokesman for the victims' families, told reporters.

"He was in a dangerous state this morning, although he insisted he would continue his protest," the spokesman said. Kim had been taking only water and salts.

The Sewol capsized on April 16 off the country's southern coast with the loss of some 300 lives, most of them high school students on an organized trip.

Some relatives of the victims have been camped out in Gwanghwamun for weeks to push parliament to pass legislation setting up a full, independent inquiry.

The bill is currently stuck in the National Assembly, with ruling and opposition parties deadlocked over what legal powers any inquiry should be given.

The tragedy, blamed by many on regulatory failings and official incompetence, plunged the entire nation into a lengthy period of mourning.

Fifteen Sewol crew members are currently on trial, including the captain and three senior officers who are accused of "homicide through willful negligence" — a charge that can carry the death penalty.

The bulk of the charges arise from the fact that they chose to abandon the ferry while hundreds of people were still trapped inside.

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