SEOUL (AFP) – A South Korean coastguard ship commander was jailed for four years Wednesday on manslaughter charges related to last year’s Sewol ferry disaster, which killed more than 300 people.
The court in the southern city of Gwangju found Kim Kyung-Il guilty of professional negligence resulting in death, a court spokesman said by phone.
Prosecutors said Kim, whose vessel was the first on the scene as the Sewol listed and sank, bore responsibility for the botched rescue effort that wasted precious time and delayed the evacuation of passengers from the stricken ferry.
He was also charged with making a false report that he had broadcast an evacuation order through loudspeakers.
The overloaded and unstable Sewol was carrying 476 people when it capsized off the southern island of Jindo on April 16. Of the 304 who died, 250 were students from the same high school.
The tragedy – blamed by many on regulatory failings, official incompetence and the ship’s illegal redesign – plunged the nation into a lengthy period of mourning.
The official response to the disaster was widely criticised for being slow, uncoordinated and unfocused, and prompted President Park Geun-Hye to vow a complete overhaul of national safety standards.