Thursday 24 May 2018

Korea's President accuses ferry captain of 'unforgivable and murderous' behaviour

Youkyung Lee

SOUTH Korean President Park Geun-hye said yesterday that the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry committed "unforgivable, murderous behaviour," while criticism of her own government's handling of the disaster grew.

As divers continued to search the submerged vessel, the confirmed death toll rose to 86, according to information from the coast guard. About 220 people remain missing.

The captain initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and waited more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order as the ferry Sewol sank last Wednesday. By then, the ship had tilted so much it is believed that many passengers were trapped inside.

Ms Park said at a cabinet briefing, "What the captain and part of the crew did is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense. Unforgivable, murderous behaviour."

UNIMAGINABLE

Ms Park said instead of following a marine traffic controller's instructions to "make the passengers escape", the captain "told the passengers to stay put while they themselves became the first to escape".

"Legally and ethically," she said, "this is an unimaginable act."

The captain, Lee Joon-seok (68), and two crew members have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

Prosecutors said yesterday that four other crew members have been detained, and that they would decide within 48 hours whether to seek arrest warrants for them.

Many relatives of the dead and missing have also been critical of the government, which drew more outrage yesterday with the resignation of Song Young-chur, a high-ranking official, who reportedly tried to take a commemorative photo of the situation room on Jindo island near the sunken ferry, where officials brief relatives of the missing.

Yonhap news agency reported that one family member shouted: "We are a nervous wreck here, and this is something to commemorate for you?"

It was the latest of several missteps. Soon after the sinking, the government announced that 368 passengers had been saved; the real number is just 174.

There also has been criticism of the government's emergency preparedness. Various ministries set up "central emergency centres" across the country without coordinating their efforts.

About 250 of the missing and dead are students from a single high school near Seoul who were on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

Irish Independent

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