Thursday, 13 November 2014

Korean ferry disaster trial - villains and heros

The captain of the South Korean ferry, Sewol, that sank in April with the loss of more than 300 lives (a memorial is pictured above) is now starting a 36 year gaol sentence (see my blog of April 20). Lee Joon-seok, on trial with 14 crew members, was convicted of gross negligence. He was cleared of homicide.

The chief engineer got a 30 year sentence, and the other 13 got gaol terms of up to 20 years. A separate trial is taking place for employees of the firm that operated the ferry, but the billionaire chairman fled after the disaster and was later found dead.

The sinking was blamed on a number of factors - illegal redesigns of the vessel, overloading, failure to secure cargo and the inexperience of the crew member steering. They led to her overturning as she made a tight turn. Lee was filmed leaving while many passengers were still inside the ship.

At least 3 crew members, though, perished trying to save those on board, including an engaged couple, and the youngest, who gave her lifejacket to a passenger. The Korean government was heavily criticised over the rescue effort, and the coast guard is due to be disbanded and replaced.

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