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In South Korea, waiting and agony

Disheveled but clinging to hope, Choi Choong-dae and his wife have driven from hospital to hospital for three nights and days, searching for their daughter.

Choi's white family van _ with a photo and description of 28-year-old Myong-ja on the front windshield _ ended up at a university gym Sunday morning, and the 56-year-old wallpaper dealer broke into tears at last.

"If only I knew whether my daughter is dead or alive!" Choi lamented, his fingers caressing the photo of his smiling daughter.

Myong-ja, a clothing shop clerk, was among the 200 people believed still trapped under a heap of concrete slabs and jumbled steel beams as rescue workers struggled to dig out survivors.

The smoking debris used to be a glitzy department store in a wealthy residential district of southern Seoul. But on Thursday evening, a five-story wing caved in on more than 1,000 employees and shoppers, killing at least 113 and injuring 910.

On Sunday, thousands of family members gathered at the gym of Seoul National University of Education, which city officials turned into a waiting room.

Relatives of the missing posted hundreds of brightly colored notices around the gym with photos and descriptions of their loved ones in bold lettering.

Some, exhausted by days of nerve-wracking waiting, sprawled on the green floor.

While rescue workers continued their efforts, drilling holes to reach possible survivors, family members scurried for scraps of information.

They appeared on live radio broadcasts, describing their children. Some used mobile phones to check each ambulance arriving at dozens of hospitals. At the rescue site, they showed photos of their daughters and sons to rescue workers going underground.

When work was halted for six hours before dawn Sunday out of fear the lone remaining wall might collapse, they marched en masse to the site to demand they be allowed to search. Some scuffled with police, who kept them away.

Some 700 relatives briefly took over an intersection near the site later Sunday to demand more vigorous work.

Many of the missing were women in their 20s who worked as clerks in more than 556 shops housed in the Sampoong Department Store.

Some 40,000 people shopped daily at the bright pink shopping mall, but many shoppers left the building before the collapse because the air conditioning was not working. Shops remained open.

Park Mi-sun, 28, a clerk at a jewelry shop, called a friend 10 minutes before the building collapsed, saying it was too hot inside and she wanted to get out. She apparently never made it.

"She wanted to quit her job in a month to prepare for her marriage scheduled in October," her brother, Park Hae-yong, said after posting her photo on a hospital window.

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