Ferry crew’s actions called ‘murderous’
JINDO, South Korea—South Korean president Park Geun-hye said today that the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry committed “unforgivable, murderous behaviour” while criticism of her own government’s handling of the disaster grew.
The captain initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and waited more than half-an-hour to issue an evacuation order as the ferry Sewol sank Wednesday.
“What the captain and part of the crew did is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense, unforgivable, murderous behaviour,” Park said at a cabinet briefing.
The comments were posted on the website of the presidential Blue House.
Park said instead of following a marine traffic controller’s instructions to “make the passengers escape,” the captain “told the passengers to stay put while they themselves became the first to escape.”
“Legally and ethically, this is an unimaginable act,” she said.
The captain, Lee Joon-seok, and two crew members have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, and prosecutors said today that four other crew members have been detained.
Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don said prosecutors would decide within 48 hours whether to seek arrest warrants for the four: two first mates, a second mate, and a chief engineer.
Lee, 68, has said he waited to issue an evacuation order because the current was strong, the water was cold, and passengers could have drifted away before help arrived.
But maritime experts said he could have ordered passengers to the deck—where they would have had a greater chance of survival—without telling them to abandon ship.
Video showed that Lee was among the first people rescued.
Some of his crew said he had been hurt, but a doctor who treated him said he had only light injuries.
Many relatives of the dead and missing also have been critical of the government, which drew more outrage today with the resignation of Song Young-chur, a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Security and Public Administration.
Song, chief of the Regional Development Policy Bureau, reportedly tried to take a commemorative photo yesterday evening of the situation room on Jindo, an island near the sunken ferry, where government officials brief relatives of the missing.
Yonhap news agency reported that one family member shouted, “We are having a nervous wreck here and this is something to commemorate for you?”