In the December issue I commented on the upcoming trial of Captain Lee Joon Seok and Chief Engineer Park Gi Ho, both charged with homicide after the South Korean ferry Sewol sank in April with the loss of 304 lives.
In the build up to the trial the prosecution was looking for the death penalty for the Captain who was accused of deliberatly avoiding an evacuation order because he was worried the passengers would hamper his escape.
The captain’s court-appointed lawyer, Lee Kwang Jae, asked the judge for “mercy” on Oct. 27. The attorney said he didn’t know what punishment would alleviate people’s anger.
The judge disagreed, saying he was not convinced Lee had an intent to have the passengers die, and instead found Captain Lee guilty of negligence for failing to “take measures to save the passengers” in what became the country’s biggest maritime disaster in more than four decades.
The court did find the chief engineer, Park Gi Ho, guilty of homicide and sentenced him to 30 years in prison on the grounds that he didn’t help two dying crew members.
“It’s hard to understand how the chief engineer can be convicted of homicide for overlooking two injured people when the captain is acquitted of the same charge when he oversaw the entire group of passengers,” Kim Young Hoon, secretary-general of the Seoul-based Korean Bar Association that provides legal counsel for the families of victims, said.
The Korean court obviously works in a strange manner, but having said that, the death penalty would have been inappropriate even for such gross negligence that had occurred.
Finally, I would like to thank you all for your support during 2014, and in particular, the many kind e-mails and letters that I have received and I sincerely wish you all a very Happy New Year.