South Korean families who lost loved ones in April's ferry disaster are demanding accountability from the government, but some have grown weary of strident activists adopting their cause for political ends.
The overloaded Sewol sank on a voyage that killed about 300 people, most of them children from the same school, causing an outpouring of grief as well as outrage at President Park Geun-hye's government for what was widely seen as a botched rescue operation.
Four months later, the tragedy is so politically charged that Pope Francis had to answer for wearing a yellow ribbon in support of the victims during his visit to Seoul.
Some families have tired of the political to-and-fro over proposed legislation to create an independent investigative committee with the right to prosecute. The People's Committee for the Sewol Ferry Tragedy, which supports mourning families, consists of more than 800 civic groups, many of them already critics of Park.
"Everyone is getting exhausted. Most of us like me want to see some kind of closure," the father of one victim said. He was speaking during a cigarette break outside a meeting of families in Ansan, the city where most of those killed had been pupils at the Danwon High School. He declined to give his name and was wary of being overheard.
Another father of a victim said some family members did not want left-wing activists helping them, as it compromised their political neutrality.
"Some of us didn't want to mingle with them, but at that time we were office workers who didn't know how to speak up for ourselves," he said. "So I thought we needed their support."
The mother of a victim, who declined to be identified outside the meeting in Ansan, said she had had no choice but to defer to those championing their cause.
"It is somewhat burdensome that those civic groups are helping us and some people [not tied to the disaster] speak ill of us. But as a mother who lost her child, I have no choice but to follow people who are active in our group because they are doing something that I can't do," she said.
At the Ansan meeting, households backed their initial position calling for an investigative committee, with 132 out of 176 voting to stick with that demand.
Among those demanding an independent inquiry is Kim Young-oh, the father of a 16-year-old girl killed in the disaster. He was taken to hospital yesterday after mounting a 40-day hunger strike. Kim was sent to hospital from Seoul's central Gwanghwamun Square, where he had been protesting. Kim had been taking only water and salts.
A spokesman for victims' families said: "He was in a dangerous state this morning, although he insisted he would continue his protest."