South Korea president: Conduct of ferry crew tantamount to murder

The South Korean coast guard carry a victim of the sunken ferry at the site of the ferry off the coast of Jindo Island on April 20. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

"I dream about him and hear hallucinatory sounds," he told Reuters. "Somebody told me he was alive but I now have given up. I know how he said 'Dad'. I keep hearing that."

Divers are retrieving the bodies at a faster pace and some parents have moved from the gymnasium to the pier to await news.

Others stay put on their mattresses in the gym, where one by one, parents are informed that a body matches the family DNA swab, prompting wailing and collapses.

Two U.S. underwater drones have been deployed in the search for bodies, a coastguard official said. Strong tides hampered operations overnight but the weather was better on Monday.

A clearer picture has started to emerge of the time around the accident after coastguards released a recording of a conversation between vessel controllers and the ship.

Witnesses have said the Sewol turned sharply before it began listing. It is still not clear why the vessel turned.

It took more than two hours for it to capsize completely but passengers were ordered to stay put in their cabins.

According to the transcript, the controllers told the captain to "decide how best to evacuate the passengers" and that he should "make the final decision on whether or not to evacuate".

Lee was not on the bridge when the ship turned. Navigation was in the hands of a 26-year old third mate who was in charge for the first time on that part of the journey, according to crew members.

The transcript shows crew on the ship worried there were not enough rescue boats to take all the passengers. Witnesses said the captain and some crew members took to rescue boats before the passengers.

Lee said earlier he feared that passengers would be swept away by the ferocious currents if they leapt into the sea. He has not explained why he left the vessel.

Pupils at the children's school in Ansan, a gritty commuter town on the outskirts of Seoul, set up shrines to the dead and posted messages for the missing.

The vice-principal of the school, who survived the accident, hanged himself outside the gymnasium in Jindo in another blow to the school. His body was discovered by police on Friday.