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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Actor Lee Young-ae, others step up to help repatriate body of Russian victim

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A photo of Yuliana Pak, one of the four Russian victims of the Itaewon tragedy, is placed on the site of the crowd crush in Itaewon, central Seoul, on Tuesday. [YULIANA PAK’S FAMILY]

Authorities, businesses and individuals including actor Lee Young-ae are stepping up to support the families of foreign victims who died in the Halloween crowd crush in Itaewon, central Seoul, last Saturday.
On Wednesday, the father of Yuliana Pak, one of the four Russian victims, told the local media that he cannot afford to transport the body of his daughter back to Russia in time for her funeral, where her mother is desperately waiting to see her daughter one last time.
Around $5,000 is needed to repatriate Pak’s body.

Yuliana Pak was 25 years old at the time and was a goryeoin, which refers to ethnic Koreans in Central Asia or Russia.

As Pak’s family is planning to hold her funeral in her hometown of Primorsky Krai in Vladivostok, her body needs to be transported by a ferry that departs from Korea’s Donghae port for Vladivostok once every Friday. If the family misses the ferry on Nov. 4, they would have to wait another week.

As the story gained traction in Korea, actor Lee Young-ae said she would like to support Yuliana Pak and her family, through the Korea Foundation for Persons with Disabilities on Wednesday.

Lee is currently serving as the advisory chairperson of the foundation.

The government also responded swiftly to the story. The Yongsan District office said they will be prepared to support the family with the relief money and funeral expenses as soon as the required documents are submitted.

The government decided to provide the families of foreign victims with 20 million won ($14,000) in relief money and up to 15 million won for funeral expenses or repatriation of the body, the same support offered to the families of Korean victims.

The Russian Embassy in Seoul also said it will help issue the required documents as soon as possible and will discuss the body transport fee with the related company directly.

Pak’s body is scheduled to be transported back to her home country on Friday.

Airlines also showed their support.

Asiana Airlines said it will provide flight tickets for the families of the foreign victims who need to come to Korea. The carrier will provide round-trip tickets to 14 family members of victims from 9 different countries.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently looking into ways to prevent any future cases such as Pak’s by providing funeral expenses in advance. The Foreign Ministry is also discussing with other related ministries ways to simplify the arrival process of the surviving families.

A total of 156 people died in the Itaewon crowd crush, including 26 foreigners: five from Iran, four from China, four from Russia, two from the United States, two from Japan and one each from France, Australia, Austria, Norway, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka.

Of the 26, four bodies have been sent to their home countries, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of Thursday afternoon.

BY CHO JUNG-WOO [cho.jungwoo1@joongang.co.kr]