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Sewol tragedy: Convictions against S. Korea ferry operator upheld

Lee Joon-seok, captain of sunken ferry Sewol, arrives at a court in Gwangju June 10, 2014. — Reuters picLee Joon-seok, captain of sunken ferry Sewol, arrives at a court in Gwangju June 10, 2014. — Reuters picSEOUL, May 12 — A South Korean appeals court today upheld manslaughter and embezzlement convictions against the CEO of the company operating the ill-fated Sewol ferry, but reduced his overall jail sentence from 10 to seven years.

The high court in the southern city of Gwangju agreed with a lower court verdict that Kim Han-Sik had allowed the passenger ferry to be routinely overloaded and approved illegal renovations to increase its passenger capacity.

The Sewol sank in April last year, with the loss of 304 lives — most of them high school students on an organised trip. 

The high court upheld prison sentences or suspended jail terms for five other officials belonging to Kim’s Chonghaejin Marine Co, while one was given a reduced sentence.

Kim had asked the court to reconsider the manslaughter charge, insisting he was just a salaried employee under the thumb of company owner Yoo Byung-Eun who he described as deeply involved in the firm’s operations.

But the argument was rejected, with the court ruling that Kim shared “collective responsibility” with other company officials and crew members of the Sewol.

An embezzlement conviction was also upheld, but the jail term reduced on the grounds that Kim had skimmed the money under instructions from Yoo Byung-Eun, rather than for his personal enrichment.

Following the Sewol disaster, Yoo became the target of a massive manhunt. His badly decomposed body was found weeks later in a field. — AFP

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