News / Asia

Four South Korea Ferry Crew Members Charged With Manslaughter

A high school student reads massages written on ribbons for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, May 15, 2014.
A high school student reads massages written on ribbons for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a group memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, May 15, 2014.
VOA News
The captain and three other crew members of the ferry that sank off South Korea last month, killing more than 280 people, were indicted Thursday on charges of manslaughter through gross negligence, a prosecutor said.

Under South Korean criminal law, Captain Lee Joon-Seok, two navigators and a chief engineer could be handed the death sentence if convicted, although no one has been executed in South Korea since 1997.

Eleven other crew members were indicted on lesser charges, including alleged negligence and abandoning passengers in need when the 6,800-ton ferry Sewol capsized and sank on April 16, according to prosecutors.

Even after being instructed by maritime safety authorities to help passengers evacuate the Sewol ferry, the crew failed to take any action and almost an hour later got on the first rescue boat, senior prosecutor Yang Jong-Jin, who is also spokesman for the prosecution, told the French news agency AFP.

Crew among first to be rescued

The 15 indicted crew members, among the first to be rescued, were arrested last month. They had taken off their uniforms and changed into civilian clothes, aware that uniformed crew members should be the last to evacuate, prosecutors were quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

Lee initially told passengers to stay in their cabins and took about a half-hour to issue an evacuation order, but it's not known if his message was ever conveyed to passengers.

In a video taken by the coast guard, he was seen escaping the ferry in his underwear to a rescue boat while many passengers were still in the sinking ship.

Lee told reporters after his arrest last month that he withheld the evacuation order because rescuers had yet to arrive and he feared for the passengers' safety in the cold, swift water.

The head of the ferry's owner, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, and four other company employees have also been arrested. Authorities suspect improper stowage and overloading of cargo may have contributed to the disaster.

Coastguard spokesman Ko Myung-Suk said it retrieved five bodies late Wednesday and three more Thursday. The confirmed death toll is now 284, with 20 listed as missing. Only 172 people, including 22 of the ship's 29 crew members, survived.

Most of the victims were students from a single high school near Seoul who were traveling to the southern tourist island of Jeju.
 
South Korean divers operate at the site where the capsized passenger ship Sewol sank in the sea off Jindo, South Korea, on April 20, 2014.South Korean divers operate at the site where the capsized passenger ship Sewol sank in the sea off Jindo, South Korea, on April 20, 2014.
x
South Korean divers operate at the site where the capsized passenger ship Sewol sank in the sea off Jindo, South Korea, on April 20, 2014.
South Korean divers operate at the site where the capsized passenger ship Sewol sank in the sea off Jindo, South Korea, on April 20, 2014.

Conditions for divers

Coastguard chief Kim Suk-Kyun said on Wednesday that divers engaged in the grisly and dangerous task of retrieving bodies were being seriously hampered as waterlogged partition walls inside the ship collapsed.

"As time goes by, the interior is caving in faster and faster, posing serious threats to divers' safety," he said.

One diver, Chun Kwang-Geun, said poor visibility inside the ship forced his colleagues to blindly grope through debris to find victims.

"If we stumble upon something, we grope it by hand (to determine whether it is a body)," said the 40-year-old who has been working on the scene since the day after the disaster.

"Many partition walls have collapsed, blocking our access," he said.

Another diver, Lee Sun-Hyong, 35, said the collapsing walls threatened to cut off air supply to divers who mostly use breathing systems tethered to the surface.

The sinking, one of the deadliest disasters in South Korean history, has triggered an outpouring of national grief. More than 1.8 million people have paid their respects at makeshift mourning stations across the country. The government also has been under mounting public criticism for its handling of the disaster.

Last week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited the families of passengers still missing. The South Korean leader pledged to severely punish those responsible for the disaster.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: champ from: india
May 15, 2014 7:56 AM
its so sad and unhappy to hear this news. i followed this news very often. im so sad for all those high school students exchanging text with their parents hoping that they will see their face again. may God almighty be with them. if RIP is return if possible, what a joyful time the family will have again.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid