Seoul, Nov 20 (IANS/EFE) A South Korean court Thursday sentenced the head of a ferry operator firm to 10 years in prison for negligent homicide over the sinking of the Sewol, which killed 304 people in April.
Kim Han-sik, 71, “remodelled the ship and overloaded it with cargo in an effort to overcome the company’s deficits despite being briefed that the ship’s ability to balance itself was compromised”, said the Gwangju district court in the ruling.
The court also imposed a reduced fine of $1,900 on the 71-year-old chief executive officer of Chonghaejin Marine Co. and handed prison terms of three to six years to other company officials.
The ruling said that “Kim also caused losses to the company through embezzlement and professional malpractice and transferred secret funds to the family of Yoo Byung-eun”, referring to the deceased millionaire, artist and religious leader considered de facto owner of Cheonghaejin Marine.
Yoo was found dead in suspicious circumstances in July while two of his sons were sentenced this month to two and three years in prison respectively over embezzlement and breach of trust, which contributed decisively to the tragic sinking, according to authorities.
Investigators said that Chonghaejin Marine added more cabins on its upper decks to accommodate extra passengers and colluded with the cargo company and port inspectors to regularly overload the ship.
It was these irregularities that caused the ship to flounder after a sharp turn by an inexperienced crew member and finally capsize off the south-west coast of South Korea with 476 passengers aboard.
Nov 12, the Gwangju court sentenced the Sewol’s captain to 36 years of imprisonment and 14 other crew members to five to 30 years in prison.