Another man, Joo Sang-Rok, who is praying for the return of his nephew Cho Ji-Hoon, told ABC News that most of his family is in torment, his sister especially desperate as she waits for news of her son. "He is a good son. He enrolled himself in the navy at a young age to help support his poor family," said Joo who had come with his family to a naval base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul.
The cause of the blast remains unknown. According to survivors, the ship sprang up about a foot with a loud bang, and then exploded splitting in half. Experts ruled out initial speculation that it could have been an internal engine explosion because the power aboard the ship could not have been strong enough to split it in half.
Some local media outlets have been reporting the possibility of a torpedo shot from a North Korean submarine. But the consensus among military analysts is this seems unlikely as the type of torpedo that the North Korean navy possesses could not have been used in waters only 82-feet deep. Their submarines would find it difficult to operate under normal conditions in such shallow water and near impossible in these severe currents.
The most likely scenario is that it was a floating or submarine water mine, but it is difficult to determine who planted them, when, and why. The South Korean government initially had been cautious about administering blame. But on Monday, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told lawmakers that it could have been one of thousands of North Korean sea mines from the 1950-53 Korean War. Both North and South Korean naval forces planted water mines then but have since begun been cleaning them. Minister Kim denied any South Korean culpability saying, "There are no South Korean mines near the Yellow Sea."
The shipwreck is close to where three naval clashes occurred between the two Koreas in 1999, 2002, and 2009. Both countries, still technically at war since the Korean War ended without a peace treaty, are in dispute as North Korea does not recognize the sea border drawn up between the two countries by the United Nations
The Associated Press contributed to this report