Sewol operator chief gets 10-year jail term

November 20, 2014
kim han-sik

Kim Han-sik, chief executive officer of Chonghaejin Marine Co., was sentenced to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of more than 300 people. (Korea Times file)

GWANGJU (Yonhap) — A district court on Thursday sentenced the head of the sunken ferry Sewol operator to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of more than 300 people.

Kim Han-sik, chief executive officer of Chonghaejin Marine Co., was also found guilty of violating the law on safe maritime navigation in connection with the April 16 tragedy, embezzling company funds worth tens of billions of won and taking kickbacks worth tens of millions of won from subcontractors.

The Gwangju District Court in this southern city imposed a 2 million won (US$1,900) fine on the 71-year-old chief as well.

“Kim remodeled the ship and overloaded it with cargo in an effort to overcome the company’s deficits despite being briefed that the ship’s ability to balance itself was compromised,” judge Yim Jung-yeob said in his ruling.

“Kim also caused losses to the company through embezzlement and professional malpractice and transfered secret funds to the family of Yoo Byung-eun,” judge Yim added, referring to Chonghaejin Marine’s owner family.

Prosecutors earlier had demanded a 15-year prison term for Kim.

In the same trial on Thursday, the court delivered prison sentences ranging from three to six years to other Chonghaejin Marine’s executives.

Prosecutors allege that Chonghaejin, motivated by profit, routinely overloaded the ship with passengers and cargo even though its balance was substantially compromised after a remodeling.

The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol sank in waters off the southwestern island of Jindo on April 16 en route to the southern resort island of Jeju. Of the total number of people on board, only 174 were rescued while the others, mostly high school students on a school trip, perished.

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