Connect with us

World

Korea ferry crew face trial

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published

 on 

image
image

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Shout of ‘murderer’ goes up in packed court as Korea ferry crew face trial
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Fifteen crew of a South Korean ferry that sank in April killing more than 300 people, most of them children, went on trial on Tuesday on charges ranging from negligence to homicide, with the shout going up of “murderer” as the captain entered the court.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 68, and three senior crew members were charged with homicide, facing a maximum sentence of death. Two were charged with fleeing and abandoning ship that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Nine were charged with negligence, which can also carry jail terms.

Emotions ran high in court as family members appeared to have already convicted the crew who were caught on video abandoning ship, the captain in his underwear, while the children, obeying orders, waited in their cabins for further instructions.

As the defendants were led in, someone in the packed courtroom shouted: “That guy is the captain, isn’t he? Murderer!”

One relative held up a sign that read: “You are not human. You are beneath animals.” An altercation broke out between relatives and security guards who tried to take the sign away.

The Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn, sank off the southwest coast on April 16 on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the southern holiday island of Jeju.

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers from the same school on the outskirts of Seoul. Only 172 people were rescued and the remainder are all presumed to have drowned.

Mourning family members packed the court in Gwangju, the closest city to the scene of the disaster, as the 15 were led in and seated on two rows of benches.

The 15 have been in detention since they were charged in May.

A family member spoke on behalf of others at the start of the hearing, imploring the defendants to tell the truth.

“Would you have done the same if these were your children? Please imagine for a moment that they were your children who died and tell the truth.”

The lawyer for the captain, in an opening statement, said his client had no power to stop the ferry company’s practise of overloading the vessel with cargo.

The lawyer, Lee Kwang-jae, also said the captain had not meant to cause the accident, and there were therefore no grounds for the homicide charge.

“It wasn’t like he had a grudge against the children so it’s difficult to accept the prosecution’s argument that he wilfully neglected the duty of rescue and escaped to save himself,” Lee told the court.

The sound of sobbing was heard throughout the courtroom as the state presented its case and the head prosecutor’s voice broke when he recounted the last moments of some of the children.

“I DON’T KNOW WHY THIS IS HAPPENING”

One child was caught on video, recovered later, staring death in the face, the prosecutor said.

“I’m not a criminal, I don’t know why this is happening,” the child was quoted as saying. “I haven’t done anything that bad.”

The court suspended the hearing and set the next court appearance for next Tuesday.

About 20 relatives stood outside the court waiting for the defendants’ bus to appear. Park Eun-hee, the mother of a girl who died on the ferry, denounced the crew’s earlier defence that they had panicked.

“We mothers say this. The crew claimed that they had panic disorder so they didn’t know what to do or couldn’t save the passengers,” she said sobbing. “But during that time, our children were crying as they called their parents and said they were scared.”

A Gwangju judge who handles media affairs, Hahn Jee-hyung, said the defendants were unlikely to get a concerted defence in the highly publicised case.

“They were appointed by the court, so we hope there is no criticism of them,” Hahn told reporters before the hearing. A panel of three judges presided over the first day of the trial, as the state called for justice to be served and the seven defence lawyers presented their case.

The captain and one senior crew member had written to the court pleading leniency, court documents show, but details were not available.

Authorities are still searching for Yoo Byung-un, head of the family that owned the operator of the doomed ferry, on charges of embezzlement seen as a key factor that led to compromised safety management.

Police have arrested executives of the ferry operator and subsidiaries of the investment firm held by Yoo’s family but they have yet to go on trial. The coastguard, which is set to be broken up, is also facing investigation for suspected negligence in the course of the rescue operation.

President Park Geun-hye, who days after the disaster said the actions of some of the crew were tantamount to murder, nominated a former journalist as her choice to be the new prime minister to replace the incumbent who resigned over the government’s slow and ineffective response to the disaster.

Moon Chang-geuk was expected to take charge of overhauling bureaucracy and reforming safety standards as pledged by Park.

A lawyer appearing for the one of the crew in hearings held earlier behind closed doors confessed to being torn between professional obligation and the resignation that lawyers could not make any difference amid a nationwide witch hunt.

“It is a burden for every lawyer, because the crime is something that can hardly be forgiven,” he said in the small coastal town of Mokpo last month.

“It’s not just that one person died. There were hundreds. All I could say to the judges is ‘we will await your wise decision’. That was it.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forum
🔔 Subscribe to our daily newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Media15 hours ago

No sex please, we’re Thai

Events16 hours ago

An aquatic meal with Olga Belka – taking art to new depths

Transport20 hours ago

Hua Lamphong (Bangkok Train Station) – History and future | VIDEO

Sponsored3 days ago

CBRE recommends top 5 luxury condominiums in Phuket with fantastic locations

imageimage
Thailand20 hours ago

Bug-eating challenge with Natty, feat. Mark Abbott | VIDEO

Coronavirus (Covid-19)21 hours ago

UPDATE: Israel bans ALL foreign entry over Omicron

Thailand23 hours ago

New variant could dampen Thailand’s reopening enthusiasm

image
Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

UPDATE: Latest news on Omicron – what we know

Tourism2 days ago

Songkhla prepares for tourism across the Southern land border

Thailand2 days ago

French expat being denied re-entry to Thailand over repeated criticism of the Thai monarchy

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 days ago

COVID-19 SATURDAY: 6,073 infections, 32 deaths, provincial data

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 days ago

Omicron causing concern, Thai authorities ban travellers from 8 countries

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 days ago

Thailand’s nightlife venues and bars told to keep closed until January 16

Protests2 days ago

Amnesty International under investigation for defending activists

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 days ago

New Covid-19 strain named “Omicron” and a variant of concern

Thailand2 days ago

Entertainment venues will not open before January 16

Thailand3 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism9 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism9 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism9 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending