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SKorea: We mismatched bodies from ferry disaster

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A TV screen shows U.S. President Barack Obama paying a silent tribute for the victims of South Korea’s sunken ferry Sewol during a summit meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye as relatives of victims looks on at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014. As visiting Obama offered South Koreans his condolences Friday for the ferry disaster, the South Korean government conceded that some bodies have been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A TV screen shows U.S. President Barack Obama paying a silent tribute for the victims of South Korea’s sunken ferry Sewol during a summit meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye as relatives of victims looks on at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014. As visiting Obama offered South Koreans his condolences Friday for the ferry disaster, the South Korean government conceded that some bodies have been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

People react as they watch news report off of a computer screen during candlelight vigil for safe return of passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol in Ansan, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014. As visiting President Barack Obama offered South Koreans his condolences Friday for the ferry disaster, the South Korean government conceded that some bodies have been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

A man holds a candle near a banner showing the sunken ferry Sewol during candlelight vigil for safe return of passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol in Ansan, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014. As visiting President Barack Obama offered South Koreans his condolences Friday for the ferry disaster, the South Korean government conceded that some bodies have been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

U.S. President Barack Obama expresses his condolences for victims of South Korea’s sunken ferry Sewol during a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye at the presidential Bule House in Seoul Friday, April 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Jung Yeon-je, Pool)

A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, prays after releasing a paper boat with messages to wish for safe return of his missing loved one written to it, at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014. Frustrated relatives of the scores of people still missing from the sinking of the ferry staged a marathon confrontation with the fisheries minister and the coast guard chief, surrounding the senior officials in a standoff that lasted overnight and into Friday morning as they vented their rage at the pace of search efforts. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — As visiting President Barack Obama offered South Koreans his condolences Friday for the ferry disaster, the South Korean government conceded that some bodies have been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again.

There have been several reports in South Korean media this week of bodies going to the wrong families, with the error sometimes caught only after the remains were taken to a funeral home. An “action plan” released by the government-wide emergency task force acknowledged that “there have been cases where the victims were wrongly transferred.”

Remains will be transferred to families when there is a match using DNA testing or fingerprint or dental records, the task force said. The transfer will be temporary when a body is matched though identification or physical description, and authorities will wait for more authoritative evidence before making the transfer permanent.

Divers have recovered 183 bodies so far, but 119 remain missing and are feared dead in the dark rooms of the submerged vessel.

Search officials including a navy spokesman and a diver said 35 of the ferry’s 111 rooms have been searched so far, Yonhap news agency reported. They said 48 of the bodies recovered were found were in a single large room built to accommodate 38.

The ferry sank April 16 on its way from Incheon port to the southern tourist island of Jeju. More than 80 percent of the 302 dead and missing are students from a single high school in Ansan, south of Seoul.

Obama arrived Friday afternoon at the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential residence, and presented President Park Geun-hye with an American flag that flew over the White House the day the ship sank. His first South Korean visit since Park took office last year was aimed at issues including North Korea, but he noted that his trip comes at a time of “great sorrow.”

“So many were young students with their entire lives ahead of them,” Obama said, invoking his two daughters, both close in age to many of the ferry victims. “I can only imagine what the parents are going through at this point, the incredible heartache.”

Accepting the flag, Park drew a parallel between the way Americans pulled together after the 9/11 attacks and the resilience of South Koreans following one of the worst maritime disasters in their country’s history.

“The Korean people draw great strength from your kindness,” she said.

Obama also said he was donating a magnolia tree from the White House lawn to Danwon High School in Ansan in honor of the lives lost and as a symbol of friendship between the U.S. and South Korea.

Eleven crew members, including the captain, have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Prosecutor Yang Jung-jin of the joint investigation team said Friday that the cause of the sinking could be due to excessive veering, improper stowage of cargo, modifications made to the ship and tidal influence. He said investigators will determine the cause by consulting with experts and simulations.

The ferry Sewol was carrying an estimated 3,608 tons of cargo, said Moon Ki-han, a vice president at

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