The CEO of Chonghaejin Marine Co., which owned the ill-fated South Korean ferry that sank in April and killed hundreds, has been arrested. South Korean prosecutors announced the arrest of Kim Han Shik today in addition to the surviving members of the crew.
Bloomberg News reports that chief prosecutor Yang Joong Jin announced the arrest and listed charges including “homicide through occupational negligence,” including the possibility that the ferry did not have enough ballast water, or had been restored in ways that made it unstable on the water. Kim joins fifteen others under arrest for the incident, all crew members who survived.
The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-Seok, is facing a life sentence for criminal negligence. A video of Lee surfaced, outraging the nation. Lee was in his underwear, escaping the sinking ship, while crew had told passengers to wait for rescue in their rooms. The orders are believed to have made a significant difference in the death toll for the accident. Also facing death sentences are a third mate who was put in charge of steering the ferry and a helmsman who had aided him.
South Korea’s Prime Minister, Chung Hong-Won, also lost his job over the sunken ferry. Chung resigned from his position in late April, apologizing for “having been unable to prevent this accident from happening and unable to properly respond to it afterwards” and insisting that he “had to take responsibility and resign.”
In addition to the potential of insufficient safety precautions taken in preparing the ship for sail, investigators are looking for more information on how the crew was steering the ferry at the time, and whether a too rapid turn could have made the ferry capsize.
In addition to the 269 passengers who died, one rescue diver lost his life this week after losing consciousness underwater.