South Korean ferry captain arrested and charged

Written by: 
Rebecca Sabalones ~ Multimedia Journalist

Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the sunken ferry in South Korea, is being charged as responsible for the failed rescue of more than 300 people aboard the Sewol, according to AP. reported the captain faces accusations of “abandoning his boat, negligence, causing bodily injury, not seeking rescue from other ships and violating ‘seamen’s law.’”

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said, “The actions of the captain and some of the crew are absolutely unacceptable, unforgivable actions that are akin to murder.”

The captain said, “At the time, the current was very strong. The temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties. The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time.”

Thad Allen, the former head of the U.S. Coast Guard, said Lee could have told the passengers to go to the deck. “He could have always changed his order if the ship wasn’t sinking. Worst case then would have been that he would have made his passengers suffer the inconvenience of standing around on deck for a few minutes,” Allen said reports AP.

Right before the sinking of the Sewol, dialogue between a crew member of the ship and officials at the Vessel Traffic Service center has now been transcribed. CNN reports: “Are the passengers able to escape?” the center official asked. “The ship listed too much, so it is impossible,” the crew member replied.

The center official also urged the captain to take charge of the crisis. “The captain should make (the) decision to make people escape,” they told the ferry, noting the captain had a better understanding of the situation.

Most of the 476 people aboard the ship were high school students on a field trip. While 174 people were rescued, at least 152 have been found dead as of April 23. All others are missing and suspected dead, reports CNN.

Though the captain faces charges, many Koreans feel confused and misled as to what happened during the incident, placing much of the blame on the government.

Soram Yun, a sophomore in psychology from Korea, said, “We don’t actually know how it exactly went. We don’t know the whole thing. People like me believe that it’s someone else hiding something else. It doesn’t really make sense.”

“I don’t know what happened,” said Mina Park, a sophomore in peace-building from Korea. “I feel like all the mistakes are from the government. Almost all the citizens in Korea know that the government is low quality. They are not for the citizens. They are just for them. They are really incompetent.”