The South Korean ferry captain responsible for last year’s disaster
that killed more than 300 people, mostly school children, was given an
increased sentence of life in prison Tuesday by an appellate court that
convicted him of homicide.
of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck
of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry April 15, 2015.
Photo / AP
A district court in November had
sentenced Lee Joon-seok to 36 years in prison for negligence and
abandoning passengers in need but acquitted him of homicide. Victims’
relatives criticized the verdict at the time, saying it was too lenient.
Prosecutors earlier had demanded the death penalty for Lee.
sentence was increased because the Gwangju High Court additionally
convicted him on the homicide charges while upholding most of other
charges that led to his November conviction, according to a court
The appellate court sentenced 14 other navigation crew
members to 18 months to 12 years in prison, the court statement said.
In November they had received sentences of five to 30 years in prison.
Court spokesman Jeon Ilho said both prosecutors and the crew members have one week to appeal the verdicts.
of the victims were teenagers traveling to a southern island for a
school trip. A total of 295 bodies have been retrieved but nine others
Many student survivors have said they were
repeatedly ordered over a loudspeaker to stay on the sinking ship and
that they didn’t remember there any evacuation orders made by
crewmembers before they helped each other to flee the ship. Lee has said
he issued an evacuation order.
year after the April 2014 sinking, the South Korean government is still
reeling from lingering public criticism of its handling of the
incident, the country’s deadliest maritime disaster in decades. Violence
occurred during a Seoul rally led by relatives and their supporters
earlier this month, leaving dozens of people injured.
South Korea formally announced it would salvage the ship from the ocean
floor off the country’s southwest coast. Relatives of the victims hope
that might locate the missing, including four students, and help reveal
more details about the sinking. Some experts are skeptical about those
wishes and remain opposed to spending taxpayer’s money to lift the
Officials say the salvage job is estimated to cost $91 million to $137 million and take 12 to 18 months.
blame excessive cargo, improper storage, botched negligence and other
negligence for the sinking, and have arrested about 140 people. Critics
say higher-level officials haven’t been accountable.