South Korea will ask Japan and China to inform it about any bodies that wash up on their beaches as fears grow that some victims of the Sewol ferry disaster may never be found.
Divers trying to search the wreck of the upturned ferry, which capsized on April 16 with 443 people on board, have been frustrated for a third straight day by atrocious weather and dangerous conditions.
Despite more than 60 hours of operations since Friday, only two more bodies have been recovered, leaving 113 still unaccounted for.
The confirmed death toll from one of the country's worst ever maritime disasters stood yesterday at 189. Most of the missing and dead were high school students.
Strong currents and stormy weather have hampered the search of the wreck and worsened fears that bodies could drift free and be scattered.
A series of nets have already been thrown up in seas around the ferry, but no finds have been reported.
Park Seung-gi, a spokesman for the government, vowed yesterday to redouble efforts to prevent bodies getting lost at sea.
Special teams had been set up to search underwater around the sunken vessel, as well as on the sea surface and on nearby islands and shores, he said.
"We will try our best to find bodies by using all our resources including helicopters, warships, patrol ships and search personnel," Park told reporters.
The search would concentrate on an area within a radius of 40 to 60 kilometres from the wreck, an official who declined to be named said. But inquiries will also be made further afield.
He said officials planned to ask two neighbouring nations - China and Japan - to contact Seoul if they found any unidentified bodies on their shores.
"It may be too early [to ask] as bodies can't drift that far at the moment ... but I think we have to move pre-emptively," he said.
In deeply Confucian South Korea, the proper burial of bodies, often in the deceased person's hometown, is considered a way to show respect for the dead and to allow their soul to rest in peace. Twelve days on from the disaster, divers have only been able to search around a third of the 111 cabins on the sunken ferry.
Waterlogged debris, cramped conditions and poor visibility are making their gruesome task very difficult, say officials, with several frogmen reporting injuries or decompression sickness.