Death Penalty Reportedly Sought For Captain In Korean Ferry Disaster

October 27, 2014

Prosecutors in South Korea are reportedly demanding the death penalty for the captain of a ferry that capsized and sank in April, killing more than 300 people. Lee Joon-seok is accused of homicide for leaving passengers, including many teenagers on a school outing, to fend for themselves.

Prosecutors say Lee failed to perform his duty as captain of the Sewol, according to Yonhap news agency.

At the time of the disaster off South Korea’s southwest coast, Lee was accused of not moving quickly enough to evacuate his vessel’s 476 passengers. In a video taken by the coast guard on the day of the sinking, Lee can be seen entering a rescue boat while many others remained on the ship.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye described Lee’s actions as “absolutely unacceptable, unforgiveable” and “akin to murder.”

USA Today says: “The court said it couldn’t immediately confirm the report that lawyers want ferry captain [Lee] to be sentenced to death. Lee has apologized for abandoning passengers, but says he didn’t know his action would lead to the mass deaths.”

Although South Korea has a moratorium on the death penalty and carried out its last execution in 1997, the courts have continued to hand down death penalties.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit