News / Asia

S. Korean President: Ferry Captain's Actions 'Like Murder'

South Korean President Park Geun-hye looks at the site where the Sewol sank from aboard a Coast Guard ship in waters off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye looks at the site where the Sewol sank from aboard a Coast Guard ship in waters off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014.
Daniel Schearf
South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye has criticized the captain and crew of a passenger ferry for abandoning ship while it sank with hundreds on board, equating their action to “murder.”

The captain and at least six crew members have been arrested. Recovery teams have retrieved 87 bodies so far, while 210 remain missing.  

The death toll from the sunken Sewol ferry rose rapidly Monday as divers were able to move deeper into the capsized ship and recover more bodies.

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye at a morning meeting had strong words for those in charge of the passenger ferry.  

She says the conduct of the captain and some crew members is unfathomable, from the viewpoint of common sense, and it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated. The captain failed to follow evacuation orders from the Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center immediately after the accident, she says. Crew members told the passengers to stay where they were but then escaped themselves. She says this is legally and ethically unimaginable.

The captain, Lee Joon-seok, and several crew members are under arrest and facing charges of negligence and violating maritime law.

The ferry sank Wednesday with 476 people on board, most of them high school students on a school trip. Rescue ships saved 179 as the ship went down but, despite fervent attempts, no one has been saved since.

Rescue efforts were hampered by strong currents and murky water. Wreckage and debris also prevented divers from entering passenger areas of the ferry until late Saturday.

Days of anguish are turning to grief for the hundreds of relatives of victims camped on the floor of Jindo's gymnasium.

Kim Ha-na's brother was on the ferry, one of 338 students and teachers from Danwon High-School in Ansan just south of Seoul.
She says she had hope but now she feels complicated and heavy-hearted. Even though air is being pumped into the ship, she says, any suvrivors have had no food or water for six days. She wonders if her brother can still be alive.

It is still not clear what caused the 6,300-ton ship to sink. Survivors reported hearing a loud noise before it began to list, prompting speculatation the ferry could have hit a submerged rock. But investigators are also looking into the possibility that cargo, including numerous vehicles, came loose during a sharp turn and threw the ferry off-balance. South Korean media reports say investigators are also considering recent repairs to the ship and its structural integrity.

President Park on Sunday declared Jindo and Ansan special disaster zones in order to fast-track emergency support.
  • Family members of a missing passenger from the capsized passenger ferry, Sewol, wait for news of the rescue operation at a makeshift accommodation, in the port city of Jindo, April 23, 2014.
  • Women wearing protective suits spray antiseptic solution around the tents of volunteers who distribute food and necessities for relatives of missing passengers of Sewol, in Jindo, April 23, 2014.
  • People pray during a candlelight vigil to commemorate the victims of capsized passenger ferry Sewol and to wish for the safe return of missing passengers, in Ansan, Korea, April 23, 2014.
  • Satellite trucks for members of the press reporting on the sunken ferry, Sewol, in Jindo, April 18, 2014. (Sungmin Do/VOA)
  • A Buddhist monk prays for the missing passengers who were on the South Korean ferry, Sewol. Family members, rescue staff and members of the press gather at the port, Jindo, April 18, 2014. (Sungmin Do/VOA)
  • A rescue diver jumps in near the buoys installed to mark the location of the sunken ferry Sewol off the southern coast, near Jindo, April 18, 2014. 
  • This giant offshore crane will be used in the rescue operation of the capsized passenger ferry Sewol. Seen here, it is moving into position as members of the South Korean Navy's SSU (Ship Salvage Unit) take part in the rescue operation, Jindo, April 18, 2014.
  • A family member of a missing passenger on South Korean ferry Sewol cries as she waits for news from a rescue team, Jindo, April 18, 2014.
  • A family member of missing passengers who were on the Sewol ferry looks toward the site of the incident, Jindo, April 18, 2014.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: meanbill from: USA
April 21, 2014 10:21 AM
WHO'S TO BLAME? -- Was this ships crew (trained) for such an emergency?
It's so easy to pick out people to blame for this catastrophe, but if people aren't (trained) on how to handle an emergency like this disaster, who knows what actions they'll make under extreme duress, and like everybody else, they'll be looking for somebody to tell them what to do.

Panic and disorder will always be the norm, when people who are supposed to be in charge, are faced with an emergency they have not been (trained) to handle.... (Did the lack of training cause this disaster?)...

by: Sun from: Taipei
April 21, 2014 6:20 AM
I wonder why S. Korean government did not rely on Japanese or American support? They have much superior rescue technology than S.Korea. If S.Korean government had accepted their offers, the number of casualties would be reduced so much.
In Response

by: Bob from: Canada
April 21, 2014 2:34 PM
meanbill: Don't make cheap excuses for the crew. The cowards simply cut and run.

Sun: I lived in Korea and taught university there for nearly 9 years. The Koreans are probably better at rescue that the Japanese ever were. The Americans were there. Some of the helicopters were American.

by: mmm from: mmm
April 21, 2014 1:12 AM
He should not judge the captain like this.
If this guy was a captain, would he really be able to stay in the ship and die for others?
I don't believe from such a careless comment that this guy really cares about the dead.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs