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Crew of sunken S. Korean ferry appear at hearing

GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) - Fifteen crew members from the sunken South Korean ferry appeared in court Tuesday to enter pleas on charges that they were negligent and failed to save the more than 300 people who died or are missing from the disaster.

Lawyers also planned to submit evidence during the hearing at Gwangju District Court. Most of those killed in the April 16 sinking of the ferry Sewol were high school students, and many people from the students' hometown attended the hearing.

There was a brief bit of chaos as families of the victims arrived. A man who appeared to be a parent rushed through a hallway in front of the courtroom, a camera crew behind him, yelling that he needed to enter immediately. Other family members stood calmly in line for a security check. Many wore yellow ribbons in memory of those killed in the disaster.

All surviving crew members responsible for the ship's navigation have been charged with negligence and with failing to do their duty to protect passengers.

The captain and three other crew members are charged with homicide - a charge that could carry the death penalty, though South Korea has not executed anyone since 1997. Prosecutors accuse them of tacitly colluding to abandon the ship while being aware that the passengers would be trapped and killed when the ship sank.

President Park Geun-hye has called the crew's actions murderous, and the pervading hostility against them has raised questions about the fairness of the trial. The crew is being defended by six state-appointed lawyers, three of whom started practicing law only this year.

The court said in a statement that it will guarantee the rights of both the defendants and the victims and faithfully investigate evidence for a speedy and fair trial.

Nearly two months after the sinking, 292 bodies have been recovered and 12 people are still missing. Divers continue underwater searches for those believed trapped inside the sunken ship off the country's southwestern coast.

There are allegations that the ferry operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co., dangerously overloaded the vessel and gave crew members inadequate emergency training, and some company officials also have been arrested.

There also is widespread anger and frustration with the government over what many see as an incompetent search and rescue effort. Since the sinking, President Park Geun-hye has pushed to restructure government agencies and reshuffle top officials to try to restore public confidence.

On Tuesday, Park nominated a former senior journalist as her new prime minister. The appointment comes days after her first choice for the job resigned amid allegations of ethical lapses. She also appointed the country's ambassador to Japan as the new spy chief, according to the presidential Blue House.

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Capt. BOB June 10 2014 at 4:44 AM

I do not see any FAIR TRIAL in all this, sorry... The crew members are used as scape goats to protect the economic interests in a crony and nepotic system. Since embarrassing evidences, like the sister ship was exactly as much non eligible for sea travels, like the inflatable rescue rafts were 100% faulty, that the ship built in Japan had been overelevated in Korea without any concern for security, that the passengers were NEVER instructed in fire drills nor abandon of the ship, etc, etc...all has been pushed under the rag to leave place to emotion and corruption only.

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2 replies
mrkdav581 Capt. BOB June 10 2014 at 3:30 PM

there looking for the owner too

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Mike Capt. BOB June 10 2014 at 5:43 PM

The crew mwmbers neglected their duty to protect the passengers, mainly the captian and senior crew members. I see them as "goats" but not scape goats. The "swabbies" shouldn't be blamed.

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bdgrizcp June 10 2014 at 7:15 AM

Sounds more like closing the barn door after the cow escapes than justice. Not all the crew was complicit in the tragedy. But screaming relatives have the effect of causing weak minded bureaucrats to try anything to save their own jobs--while any possible fix is put on hold to give a sense of justice--or retribution--to the mob. After seeing many times what goes on in their version of Congress I can't imagine this being much different.

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1 reply
ycplum bdgrizcp June 10 2014 at 10:03 AM

The 15 does not represent the entire crew. I could be wrong, but I believe the 15 include the entire bridge crew plus a few others, most involving the loading and stowage of cargo. Of the 15, I am sure a few may be innocent and the rest having varying degrees of culpability.

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JOHN COLE June 10 2014 at 3:20 AM

it's just too bad

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oujoou June 10 2014 at 5:07 AM

When you think you are god's gift to the world . . . and what Korean guy or gal secretly DOESn't think that? . . . you know that such a nation would take liberties with regards to safety. Laugh at the world. It's ok. The world IS funny. Piss off a Korean. Beat them at video games. All hell boils over. NOTHING is like the Korean temper. NOTHING is like the Korean ego. I think when the national dish is Kim Chi . . . they live for the moments when they can explode on someone . . . like they explode into the toilet at night from all the SPICY kim chi. :( If it makes you feel powerful and you don't harm anyone . . . it's ok. Just don't expect to win any popularity contests. :(

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6 replies
rwitchwoman63 June 10 2014 at 9:24 AM

To hell with a fair trial what about all those children that were killed they deserve justice and so do the families!!!!

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1 reply
ycplum rwitchwoman63 June 10 2014 at 10:05 AM

Not quite sure what you are trying to say. It sounds like you are saying that an unfair trial will give justice to the dead and their families. But that doesn't make much sense.

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Chas June 10 2014 at 9:41 AM

My take on this entire mess is simple I think. If the ship is floundering, never stay below deck. If the Capt. and crew told the passengers to stay put and then never returned to give further instructions then lets be honest, that was bad, On the other hand, these passengers were not kindergarten kids. They were high school kids. If someone told me or any of my high school friends to stay below decks on a clearly sinking ship, we would never have obeyed that order. No matter what, when a ship you are on is sinking, you should get your life jacket and go to the main deck. Especially if you were not given a muster station in the event you would need to abandon ship. I will never understand how 300 seemingly bright intelligent kids would stay put below decks on a sinking ship no matter what the order was they were given. I hope anyone that reads this will learn and never stay put if this happens to them. My thoughts and prayers to their familys. This has been the world according to Chas

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ian47pegasus June 10 2014 at 9:49 AM

As with the Titanics Company the white Star Line and many, many more disasters at sea since and before safefty is of little or no consiqence when it comes to its bottom line. They seam to always be able to pay heavy insurance premiums structural modifications etc, but when it comes to uniforms for the senior members of the crews for the ships they own and maintainence of safety equipment, Well responsobility in that area has always been shifted to the Captain and him or her ALONE ! And while some members of its crew lost their lives trying to help passangers on this ferry it is deplorable the other senior members of its crew (including the Captain) gave little or no thought for the passangers under their care, only for saving their own skins, the owners of the Company should not escape justice either, but sadly they always do, and thats not right too, not only that, but the proffit of said Company will sky rocket with the huge pay out it will recieve from the insurance !!!

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1 reply
Mark SuckerBurg ian47pegasus June 10 2014 at 10:09 AM

That's why the G.O.P. in this country wants "less government", because it = LESS REGULATION! of criminal corporations!!

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2 replies
lhelix1965 Mark SuckerBurg June 10 2014 at 4:23 PM

You are a sucker,fool.

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Mike Mark SuckerBurg June 10 2014 at 5:46 PM

You're as sick as the donkey you rode in on.

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Velocity105 June 10 2014 at 10:03 AM

At least S. Korea's president is taking action to try to restore public confidence and all have been arrested instead of getting off scott-free like murdering police in the U.S. and a government that would take no action at all against a ferry crew who were guilty of what the crew in S. Korea did. Payments here would be made to the appropriate parties and the crew would march off to command a new ferry somewhere else.

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thosholzel June 10 2014 at 9:58 AM

Why are these Asias so nutty? You don't see Westerners ranting and screaming about unfortunate accidents.

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RickyD June 10 2014 at 9:41 AM

They butcher millions of dogs alive every year in Korea. Who gives a sh*t what happens to them?

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