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  • » 11/11/2014, 00.00

    SOUTH KOREA

    Korea, Sewol captain sentenced to 36 years in prison



    The courts have found him guilty of "gross negligence" but rejected the charge of murder. All other crew members on trial also condemned. The chief engineer of the ferry that sank last April, gets 30 years in jail. 304 people died in the tragedy, one of the worst accidents in the history of South Korea.

    Gwangju (AsiaNews) - The judges of Gwangju District Court have sentenced Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the Sewol ferry that sank last April off the island of Cheju to 36 years in prison for "gross negligence". Hundreds of people died in the disaster, mostly high school students on a field trip, but the authorities have dismissed the charge of manslaughter (and therefore the death penalty) put forward by the prosecution. The other 14 crew members on trial were also sentenced to prison: the chief engineer of the ship will spend the next 30 years in jail, the others received sentences of up to 20 years each.

    During the trial eye witness accounts were heard and original footage of the disaster shown. In some of these, we see Captain Lee (just over 70 years) abandon the ship as it starts to sink. Some survivors have also accused him of deliberately asking passengers to "stay in their place" without even raising the alarm.

    There were 476 people on board Sewol. Of these, 304 died. Nine corpses are still missing, but the government has suspended the search in the vicinity of the wreck. The disaster has sparked the anger and sorrow of the entire population. In addition, the fact that the government has not yet given rise to an investigation into the causes that led to the sinking has led to a series of controversies that have plunged the approval ratings of the President Park Geun-hye.

    The tragedy was widely reported during the pastoral visit of Pope Francis to Korea, which took place August 14 to 18 last. The pontiff stopped several times to speak with groups of family members of the dead students - who are asking the government for "truth and justice" - and he wore the symbolic yellow ribbon brooch on his white skullcap, as a reminder of the young people who lost their lives at sea . The Pope also baptized the father of one of the victims, Mr. Lee Ho-jin, who has chosen to call himself Francis.

     

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    See also

    23/08/2014 SOUTH KOREA
    Sewol activist hospitalized after 40 days of hunger strike
    In the April 16 disaster, Kim Young-oh lost his 17 year old daughter. Since then together with other families of victims he has campaigned for a new law to punish those responsible for the massacre. The man met Pope Francis before the beatification of the 124 Korean martyrs, and gave him the yellow badge that is their symbol of protest. The pontiff wore it throughout the journey.

    25/02/2015 SOUTH KOREA
    Baptized by the Pope in Korea: 500 kilometers of rosaries and prostration to demand justice for Sewol
    Francis Lee Ho-jin lost his son in the sinking of the ferry in April 2014. Almost a year after the massacre, the government has yet to clarify those responsible for the disaster. Together with his daughter, he is marching on foot from the south of the country to the capital: every three steps, he prostrates himself to ask the population to remember the more than 300 victims. The continuous recitation of the Marian prayer for the repose of the souls.

    29/07/2014 SOUTH KOREA
    Korea, Sewol survivors: Crew and Coast Guard abandoned us
    Hearing opens in Ansan to gather the testimonies of those who have managed to escape after the disaster, which killed more than 300 people. Heavy accusations against those in charge, who fled instead of helping passengers. The Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace: "Now we need a special law to shed light on the incident."

    13/08/2014 KOREA - VATICAN
    Seoul, families of the Sewol victims to remain in Square: "Overjoyed for Pope, but we want justice"
    Standoff between the group together holding a sit-in in Seoul’s central square, and the government that wants to evict them before the beatification ceremony for 124 Korean martyrs. The spokesman for the families tells AsiaNews: "We have nothing against the Pope, the Church, or martyrs. Indeed, we are certain that Francis will bring great comfort to our grief. But we can not abandon our sit-in."

    15/05/2014 KOREA
    Hurting over S Korean ferry sinking, Christians and Buddhists hold vigils and prayer to comfort each other
    Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists have set up a camp near the port on Jindo Island not far from where the Sewol ferry sunk with 476 people on board. As families continue to wait for news about those still missing, they find comfort in prayer and listening. The government charges the captain and three officers, whilst the head of the ferry company is holed up at home, surrounded by members of his 'Salvation Sect'.



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