The accident happened Sunday morning when the 9.77 ton recreational fishing vessel Seonchang-1, carrying two crew members and 20 anglers, overturned after hitting the 336-ton Myeongjin-15 tanker in Yellow Sea waters near Yeongheung Island.
Seven people have been rescued, but the accident left 13 people dead and two missing.
It was the worst tragedy involving a South Korean recreational fishing boat since a similar accident in waters near Jeju Island in September 2015. Fifteen people were killed and three went missing at that time.
Rescued workers unsuccessfully searched the area overnight for the two missing people by mobilizing 30 Coast Guard boats, seven Navy vessels, one local government vessel, as well as two Coast Guard planes and one Air Force plane. They also used 342 flares to illuminate the area.
Officials said they will put more search vessels into the operation.
A total of 59 vessels, 15 airplanes and 59 divers are expected to be mobilized for the operation, in addition to 1,380 people assigned to search the coastline, as victims' bodies could have washed ashore.
Coast Guard officials are also trying to determine the cause of the accident.
Investigators said later they requested arrest warrants for the tanker's captain, identified only by his surname, Jun, 37, and a 46-year-old crew member surnamed Kim, on charges of professional negligence resulting in death. They have been put under emergency detention for questioning.
Officials suspect the tanker's crew didn't do enough to avoid a collision even though they knew of the existence of the fishing boat nearby.
"Captain Jun has stated to the effect of acknowledging his fault, saying he was aware of the fact that the fishing boat was operating nearby," a Coast Guard official said.
The ill-fated fishing boat was towed to the Coast Guard pier in Incheon earlier in the day. Source: the Yonhap.