SKorean president: Ferry crew actions 'murderous'
By GILLIAN WONG and HYUNG-JIN KIM, AP
April 21, 2014, 3:21 pm TWN
JINDO, South Korea — South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday that the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry committed "unforgivable, murderous behavior" in the disaster, which left more than 300 people dead or missing.
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. By then the ship had tilted so much it is believed that many of the roughly 240 people missing could not escape.
Park said at a Cabinet briefing, "What the captain and part of the crew did is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense, unforgivable, murderous behavior." 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," she said, "this is an unimaginable act."
The captain and two crew members have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, and prosecutors said Monday that another four crew members have been detained. Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don said prosecutors would decide within 48 hours whether ask a court for arrest warrants for the four — two first mates, a second mate and a chief engineer.
The captain, Lee Joon-seok, 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 no fracture and only light injuries.
Lee spoke of "pain in the left rib and in the back, but that was it," Jang Ki-joon, director of the orthopedic department of Jindo Hankook University. Jang said he did not realize Lee was the captain until after he treated him.
Many relatives of the dead and missing also have been critical of the Park administration, angry over the search and rescue response and mistaken assurances in the early stages that loved ones were alive. On Jindo island, near the sunken vessel, about 100 relatives marched for six hours Sunday, intending to travel to Park's office 400 kilometers (250 miles) away, before police stopped them. Families also blocked the prime minister's car and cursed at and pushed the fisheries minister.
So far 64 bodies have been recovered, and about 240 people remain missing. About 225 of the missing and dead are students from a single high school near Seoul who were on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju.
As divers increasingly make their way into the submerged ship, including a new entryway through the dining hall Monday, there's been a big jump in the discovery of corpses. And that means that on Jindo, an island near where the ferry sank, relatives of the missing must look at sparse details such as gender, height, hair length and clothing to see if their loved ones have been found.