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Chief of Ferry Company in South Korea Is Given 10-Year Jail Sentence

Author: Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, Published on: 23 November 2014

The head of the company whose ferry sank in April, killing more than 300 people in one of South Korea’s worst disasters in decades, was convicted on Thursday of accidental homicide and embezzlement and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Kim Han-sik, 71, the chief executive of the Chonghaejin Marine Company, was among 11 officials from the ferry operator; a cargo company, Union Transport; and the port inspector, the Korea Shipping Association, who were on trial in Gwangju District Court for their roles in the disaster. All but one were convicted of accidental homicide and other criminal charges, according to a statement from the court in Gwangju, a city in southwestern South Korea. Seven were sentenced to two to six years in prison. Two others were given suspended prison terms. Another official, a senior ship inspector, was acquitted of obstruction of justice, the only charge he had faced. ... On its last voyage, the Sewol was carrying twice as much cargo as legally allowed, according to court documents. The ship’s crew had reduced the amount of ballast water it carried at its bottom for stability so that it could accommodate the excess cargo, investigators said. “The defendants had known that the ship was unstable and that if it sank, it was highly likely that passengers would die or get injured,” said the court statement explaining the verdicts. Two weeks ago, another South Korean court sentenced Yoo Dae-kyoon, the eldest son of Yoo Byung-eun, a business mogul who controlled a fleet of companies, including Chonghaejin Marine, to three years in prison for embezzlement. The authorities accused members of the Yoo family of stealing the equivalent of millions of dollars from the ferry company, money they said could have been used for safety measures that were not put in place on the Sewol. The senior Mr. Yoo was found dead in July while on the run from criminal charges. ...

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