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South Korea ferry boss gets 10-year jail term

November 20, 2014

A South Korean court has sentenced the CEO of a ferry operator to 10 years in jail over the sinking of a ship that killed more than 300 people. Most of the victims were teenagers from the same high school.

Fähre Sewol Suche nach Vermissten eingestellt
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

The court in the southern city of Gwangju handed down the sentence on Thursday after convicting Kim Han-sik, the chief executive of Chonghaejin Marine, of negligence causing death and embezzlement.

Specifically, the court found that Kim, 71, had allowed the ferry to be routinely overloaded and had approved illegal alterations to increase the vessel's capacity. The court also handed him a 2 million won (1,428 euros, $1,800) fine for failing to stop the practice of improper storage and the overloading of cargo, which the judges also found was a factor in the sinking of the ferry.

In court, Kim repeatedly denied responsibility, saying he was merely an employee acting on the orders of the company's late owner, Yoo Byung-Eun. Yoo had been the subject of a massive manhunt after the disaster. His badly decomposed body was found in a field in June, but the cause of death remains unclear.

The court also sentenced 10 Chonghaejin Marin executives to between three and six years in prison for negligence and embezzlement.

Crew members sentenced

Last week, the 15 crew members who survived the disaster received sentences of between five and 36 years.

The captain of the ferry, Lee Jun-Seok, was given 36 years for gross negligence and dereliction of duty, including abandoning his vessel while hundreds of passengers remained trapped on board.

The Sewol ferry capsized on April 16 while traveling from the city of Incheon to Jeju island off the South Korea's southwestern coast. Three hundred and four people, mostly high school students, died in the disaster. All but nine of the bodies were recovered, before the government called off underwater searches last week.

pfd/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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