Korea Ferry Captain May Face Death Penalty

Korea

If the court finds favor with the prosecution, during the trial of the Korea Ferry Captain, whose ferry sank many months ago, the captain may have to face the death penalty. Captain Lee Joon-Seok has been accused of abandoning a ferry that held over 300 people on it, as it sank into the water, and the prosecution in the case is seeking none other than the death penalty, calling him a liar who was responsible for all of passengers’ lives, and stating that it was his fault that they all died.

In April of this year a ferry, Sewol, made headlines, as it had sank off of the southwestern coast of South Korea. The headlines called it the “country’s worst disaster in decades,” as 476 passengers faced danger, and hundreds were slowly recovered by underwater divers, over a period of months. Many of the passengers on board were high school students, which caused a major outrage among families. According to sources, the captain and his crew told the passengers to stay inside their cabins, not making them aware that the ship was facing trouble. The crew then deserted the ferry before it sank to the bottom of the sea, where it laid on its side.

Families of those missing camped out on an island in Korea that was nearby where the ship had sank. They were hoping that the body of a loved one would be recovered, as they waited agonizingly for divers to bring up bodies. The families pressed the government against all that they wanted to do. When the government wanted to call of the search, several times, the families protested. When they wanted to bring the ship up out of the sea, the families protested. Now, as the captain and crew await trial the families have once again protested. This time, however, the families may get what they want as the prosecution has now asked the judges involved in the case to seek the death penalty for the captain, who abandoned the ship.

Joon-Seok said he accepted the consequences of his actions, but he insisted that he never meant to allow deaths to anyone. The three judge panel is suppose to decide his fate on November 11. The problem is that South Korea has not used the death penalty in 20 years.

Three senior crew members and 11 other crew members from Korea are also facing homicide charges, though the death penalty has not yet been suggested for them. They will, however, be facing high sentences if convicted. The three senior crew members are looking at possible life sentences, while the other 11 are looking at a minimum of 15 years, but as much as 30 years.

The court will most likely hold all of them responsible for the passengers inside, though until November 11, their sentences will not be known. The captain and the crew have all apologized for their actions, stating that they did not mean to cause harm to anyone. However, the fact that they overloaded the vessel, with cargo that it could not handle, and the fact that they were not keeping the ferry legal, according to Korea standards, makes the prosecution state that they were not being responsible for their passengers. In addition, the fact that they supposedly told the passengers to stay in their cabins, and did not even attempt to rescue anyone but, instead abandoned ship, only makes the prosecution’s case stronger.

Whether the Korea ferry captain will face the death penalty or not, will be in the judges’ hands. For now all anyone can do is wait and see what happens. Families who seek closure have been long awaiting the results. Those whose lives were lost have not yet received any justice, but whether the captain will get capital punishment or not, it is expected that the judges will most certainly hold the captain and his crew responsible for the hundreds of passengers that sank with Sewol.

By Crystal Boulware

Sources:

Gulf News
The Daily Beast
NY Times

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