Over the past few days the government has been working on declaring the two areas affected by the accident as special disaster zones.
One is Ansan in Gyeonggi-do province, near the capital Seoul, and the other is Jindo-gun county in the southwestern province of Jeollanam-do.
Officials passed the measure today.
For details, we now go to our Laah Hyun-kyung , standing by at the news center.
It was around 6:40 p.m., Korea time, when those two areas officially became special disaster zones.
Jindo-gun county is where Paengmok-hang harbor is -- the harbor closest to the sunken ferry.
And Ansan is where Danwon High School is -- the high school where most of the students on the ferry were from.
The two areas will now be able to quickly receive state funds for the search-and-rescue operation.
Also, local taxes including acquisition tax will be waived.
Other general taxes will either be reduced, or the payment deadline will be postponed for up to nine months.
Financial assistance will be given to the victims and their families, as well as to those that are still waiting for their loved ones to return.
This is the seventh time the Korean government has designated special disaster zones.
Past cases include the collapse of Sampoong department store in 1995, which resulted in 1,445 casualties.
And a major oil spill in Taean-gun county on the country's west coast in 2007, which resulted in damages worth more than 700 million dollars.
For those curious about what communications transpired between the wheelhouse and the marine traffic control center earlier in the afternoon the transcript and an audio file were released. Does it solve any of the mystery surrounding the crew's behavior?
Some say it has added even more mystery to the crew's behavior.
What people are wondering is why the crew members left the sinking ferry before the passengers onboard.
Take a listen.
It's difficult to make out what the two sides are saying exactly even if you speak Korean.
But what is evident is that the situation sounds quite dire.
The released transcript shows that the control center first contacted the sinking ferry at 9:06 a.m. Wednesday.
They made contacts 11 times and communicated for 31 minutes.
At 9:12 a.m. the ferry was already severely tilted. The crew member who was talking to the control center already knew that the people onboard were not able to move.
The control center told the ferry that the captain needs to decide whether to order passengers to abandon the vessel, since it didn't know the situation there.
That was around 9:25 a.m.
But the ferry said it was unable to make announcements because its speaker system was down.
And the last time the two made contact was at 9:37 a.m., when the ferry told the control tower that only the people who were able to escape to the left side of the ferry were able to leave the vessel.
Hyun-kyung, does the transcript show who was communicating from the ferry?
The transcript doesn't show who was communicating but we are getting reports that it was a senior crew member.
Whether the captain was in the steering room is still unknown.
Captain Lee Joon-seok is facing tremendous criticism for escaping the ship before the passengers.
So what we need more information on is whether the captain in fact DID neglect his duty by not promptly notifying the passengers about the situation during that 30-minute time frame.
What's the latest on the investigation into the accident? How is it progressing?
Prosecutor General Kim Jin-tae ordered an investigation into the
Sewol-ho ferry operator, the Chonghaejin Marine Company.
That's separate from the one that is currently being conducted by a joint investigation team composed of the police and the prosecution.
The prosecution speculates the disaster occurred possibly due to a management failure.
Travel bans have been imposed on the operator's president, Kim Han-sik, as well as Yoo Byung-eon , the former chairman of the operator's parent firm, and his two sons, who are the biggest shareholders of the company.
The joint investigation team also ordered travel bans on some 40 personnel from the company including the crew members that were aboard the sinking ferry.
Alright, thank-you Hyun-kyung for that update.