Nautilus International argues that Lee Joon-seok has been made a scapegoat for the sinking of MV Sewol and the deaths of more than 200 schoolchildren
Maritime union Nautilus International has defended ferry captain Lee Joon-seok, who was sentenced this week to ten years in jail for homicide after abandoning a sinking ship.
An appeals court in South Korea reduced his sentence from 30 years to ten years, but Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus, claimed that the 70-year-old will likely die in prison for making a mistake.
“Once again, a captain has been made the scapegoat as a result of political pressure and media misrepresentation,” he said.
“Pinning the blame on an individual in this way helps to obscure the underlying causes of the accident, including regulatory failure, overloading and design changes.”
Passenger ferry MV Sewol was loaded to almost twice its maximum capacity when it capsized off the coast of Jindo on April 16, 2014, killing 295 passengers, many of whom were children on a school trip to the island of Jeju.
Mark argues that the captain is not the only one to blame: “It is the law-makers that determine the actions of owners and set the levels of safety. It should not be masters that suffer for their failure.”
As well as Mr Joon-seok, who originally faced the death penalty, 14 other crewmembers were jailed for their part in the disaster, with sentences ranging from 18 months to 12 years.
Local media reports claim that passengers were told to stay were they were at 0900 – half an hour after the ferry had begun to list – and that the order to abandon ship was never given.
After the trial, the Mr Joon-seok admitted that he had panicked and failed to take appropriate measures, but denied having any intent to murder.