Kim Han-sik, 73, CEO of Chonghaejin Marin, operator of the ill-fated Sewol ferry together with four of his employees will appear before Gwangju District Court today to enter pleas regarding negligence that lead to the death and disappearance of over 300 people, writes the Associated Press.
Chonghaejin is accused of having overloaded the ferry even though he knew that it will make it unstable. Namely, the ferry had a limit on allowed cargo as it underwent remodeling after its purchase, making it top heavy.
However, it is this overloading that is believed to have caused the accident together with the inadequate speed of navigation.
The overloading became a practice in the company as it earned extra profit, around US$3 million just last year, as stated in the indictment.
The nation is engulfed with fury and grief as the prosecution of the 15 crew members gains momentum.
The Sewol crew members who managed to got away from the sinking refused to assume legal responsibility for the passengers’ fate, shifting the blame to the South Korean Coast Guard.
Once the distress signal from the ferry was sent and the Coast Guard crew were on the scene it was up to them to rescue the passengers, the defence lawyer of the crew Im Ju-young said Tuesday, the second day of the trial in Gwangju.
Three of the fifteen crew members, one of them being the captain, are facing death penalty having been charged with “homicide through willful negligence”. The captain claims that he could not prevent the overloading as the power of decision making was in the hands of the company’s management.
The ferry was carrying around 475 people, including 325 students from a high school in Ansan, just south of Seoul, when it sent out a distress signal on April 16th at 8:58 a.m. in waters 20 kilometers off the island of Byeongpoong.
World Maritime News Staff, June 20, 2014; Image: AP