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President Park likens what sunken ferry's captain did as murder

English.news.cn   2014-04-21 14:05:37

SEOUL, April 21 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Park Geun- hye likened what captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry did as murder on Monday, vowing to force those responsible to shoulder legal responsibilities regardless of ranks. "What captain and some crew members did was like an act of murder that cannot be acceptable and permissible from a common-sense standpoint,"Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries.

Park said it was an unthinkable act both legally and ethically for them to order passengers to stay put when they abandoned passengers and left the vessel.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, was arrested Saturday for five charges including negligence of duty and abandonment resulting in death. He ordered passengers to stay in place when he and other crew members left the sinking ferry. The captain was among the first to escape from the vessel.

Two sailors, including the third-ranking officer and the helmsman, were also arrested for similar charges with Lee. The captain wasn't at the helm when the ship was sinking as the wheel was handed over to the 25-year-old third mate who steered the ship in the rough waters for the first time. The sailor had only six months of experience for the Incheon-Jeju route.

The 6,825-ton ferry Seowl capsized and sank off Jindo Island, the southwestern tip of South Korea, on Wednesday morning. The ship departed the western port city of Incheon Tuesday night for the southern resort island of Jeju, carrying 476 people that included 325 high school students and 15 teachers on their way for a four-day field trip.

Park said that everybody responsible for the disaster"will have to take criminal and civil responsibilities regardless of ranks." Those who are responsible should be disclosed stage by stage, including those who caused the accident as they violated rules and downplayed safety manuals, those who neglected duty when the ship was sinking and those who acquiesced in irregularities and wrongdoings, she said.

Park instructed prosecutors to investigate into all processes from how the ship was imported and given a license, to whether the ship was modified, how often safety checks were conducted and how the sailing was approved.

The Sewol ferry set sail around two and a half hours later than scheduled due to a heavy fog. Illegal modification and overloading were also suspected to have played a role in capsizing the ship. Around 40 officials of the ship's operator Chonghaejin Marine were prevented from leaving the country for the summoning of prosecutors.

The ferry disaster was believed to have been caused by a sudden turn in direction. The ship made an abrupt turn at about 8:48 a.m. local time Wednesday. The second turn was suddenly made four minutes later.

The abrupt turn was estimated to have moved about 180 cars and trucks and over 1,100 tons of cargo on the deck of the ship to one side, driving the ship to lean to the port side gradually.

Park also pointed out widespread distrust towards public servants among relatives of those missing, warning that those who always seek to read superiors'countenance to keep their posts will be weeded out.

When Park made a"surprise"visit last Thursday to an indoor gym in Jindo, where relatives of missing passengers gathered to wait eagerly for news on search and rescue operations, she was confronted with insults, shrieks, and wails. The relatives, mostly parents of the Danwon High School students which took up around 70 percent of 476 passengers, vented their fury on Park.

Misinformation from the government added fury to the victims. There had been no official mouthpiece for three days after the accident, resulting in confusing reports. The number of the rescued had changed six times before being fixed at 174 on Friday. The total number of passengers had also been rescinded several times.

Only after Park's visit, coast guard chief began briefing the relatives daily and two large screens for live footage of rescue operations and TV reports were placed at the gym.

Related:

 
JINDO, South Korea, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Death toll in a South Korean ferry sinking accident rose to 64 on Monday as divers kept entering inside the hull of the submerged vessel while ships were scouring the waters.Full story

 
JINDO, South Korea, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Death toll rose to 64 Monday morning in the South Korean ferry sinking accident as divers kept entering inside the hull of the submerged vessel while ships were scouring the waters.Full story
 
 
JINDO, South Korea, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Last-minute communications between a sunken South Korean ferry and a vessel traffic center were disclosed Sunday by the pan-government emergency management headquarters.Full story
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