Sewol operator CEO gets 10 year prison sentence

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 — South Korea's Gwangju District Court has imposed a 10 year prison sentence on Kim Han-Sik, CEO of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the ferry Sewol, which sank April 16 with the loss of more than 300 lives.

Yonhap news agency reports that Kim was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, violating the law on safe maritime navigation, embezzling company funds worth tens of billions of won and taking kickbacks worth tens of millions of won from subcontractors.

"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," Yonhap reports Judge Yim Jung-yeob as saying in his ruling.

The judge said that Kim had secretly transferred funds to the family of Yoo Byung-eun, the effective owner of Chonghaejin Marine whose decomposed body was found in a field June 12 after he had eluded a manhunt.

The court imposed prison sentences of from three to six years on other Chonghaejin Marine executives.

The sentences on the Chonghaejn Marine executives are much lighter than those imposed earlier on the captain and crew of the Sewol.

Captain Lee Joon-seok was sentenced to 36 years in prison for abandoning passengers. Thirteen other crew members were given prison terms ranging from five to 20 years. The ship's chief engineer was sentenced to 30 years in prison and found guilty of murder for leaving behind two injured crew mates.

The captain and crew members have all appealed those sentences and prosecutors have also appealed, seeking harsher punishment.

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