Seoul, Oct 8 (IANS/EFE) The captain of the Sewol ferry, which sank in South Korea April 16 killing 304 people, apologised Wednesday to the victims’ families and stressed that he had no intention of killing them.
Captain Lee Joon-seok, 68, made the statement at his trial in Gwangju, where he admitted having committed a “serious crime” but insisted it was not intentional, the Yonhap news agency reported.
The captain and three crew members are charged with homicide due to grave negligence, equivalent to first degree murder under the South Korean penal code and punishable with the death penalty, which has not been carried out in the country since 1997.
“I must not let my children and grandchildren live being called family members of a murderer,” the captain said, as he reckoned he would probably never leave prison.
Public prosecutors said the captain and crew delayed issuing evacuation orders and were the first to leave the vessel when it began to sink, thus neglecting their duty regarding the security of passengers.
Eleven other crew members could face life imprisonment for negligent conduct.
A verdict is expected in November in the trial, which began June 10.
Meanwhile, in the port city of Incheon, the public prosecutor’s office Wednesday sought a four-year imprisonment for Yoo Dae-kyun, son of ferry owner Yoo Byung-eun who was found dead in July after fleeing from the police for weeks.
Yoo is accused of misappropriation of funds and illegal transactions linked to the Sewol.
According to the investigations, the management of the ferry had an important role in the mishap as the Sewol was carrying three times its weight and had not undergone regular checks.
The ship still remains on the seabed off the southwestern coast of South Korea and 10 bodies are yet to be recovered.