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Four crew of S. Korean ferry indicted on manslaughter charges

Four crew of S. Korean ferry indicted on manslaughter charges

15 May 2014 | 07:30 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. The captain and three other crew members of the ferry that sank off South Korea last month were indicted Thursday on charges of manslaughter through gross negligence, Yonhap news agency reported, cited by AFP.
If convicted, Captain Lee Joon-Seok of the Sewol ferry, two navigators and a chief engineer could face the death sentence.
They are accused of leaving the ship as it was sinking while telling passengers, mostly high school students on a school excursion, to stay where they were.
The four and 11 other low-ranking crew members are accused of being the first to escape to safety, leaving passengers trapped in the sinking vessel.
Coastguard spokesman Ko Myung-Suk said Thursday that a further five bodies were retrieved late Wednesday, including one found floating on the surface.
The confirmed death toll now stands at 281, with 23 still missing.
The Sewol was carrying 476 people when it sank on April 16 after listing sharply to one side.
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Korean ferry recovery suspended for third day

Korean ferry recovery suspended for third day

12 May 2014 | 05:47 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Dangerous conditions suspended recovery operations at the site of South Korea's ferry disaster for a third day Monday, delaying the search for 29 people still missing nearly one month after the ship sank, AFP reports.

"The operation remains suspended due to high waves, but divers are ready to resume their work if conditions improve," coastguard spokesman Ko Myung-Suk told a daily briefing. The confirmed death toll stood at 275, with 29 still unaccounted for after the 6,825-tonne passenger ferry Sewol capsized and sank off the southern coast on April 16. Divers have been unable to access the submerged vessel since Saturday morning, with strong tides and heavy swells pushing conditions beyond the safety limit.

There is intense pressure on the recovery teams to wrap up the grim task of pulling every body from the ferry as soon as possible. The families of those still missing oppose raising the vessel until every body has been retrieved. But the search, in near-zero visibility, is becoming increasingly dangerous, with some partition walls on the ship warping and at risk of collapse.
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S. Korea parliament to begin ferry disaster probe

S. Korea parliament to begin ferry disaster probe

11 May 2014 | 08:04 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korea's parliament is to open an investigation into the ferry disaster that has left 300 people dead or missing, politicians confirmed Sunday, as the government counters criticism of its handling of the tragedy, AFP reported.
A special parliamentary session will open this week and a number of committees will begin work from Monday, the government and opposition said, dedicated to confirming the cause of and responsibility for the sinking of the Sewol.
Park Young-Sun, of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said the session would focus on "a (parliamentary) investigation, the nomination of a special prosecutor and hearings."
The ruling Sanuri party's leader of parliament Lee Wan-Koo told a joint press conference it would "make efforts ... to prevent a recurrence of such a disaster."
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Divers retrieve more bodies in S. Korea ferry disaster

Divers retrieve more bodies in S. Korea ferry disaster

10 May 2014 | 07:26 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Divers have retrieved two more bodies from the wreck of the South Korean ferry that sank last month, as conditions on the ship further deteriorated, officials said Saturday, AFP reported.
The bodies were found late Friday in the inverted, submerged ship, bringing the confirmed death toll from the April 16 disaster to 275, Coastguard Spokesman Ko Myung-Suk told journalists. Twenty nine are still unaccounted for.
Divers have now swept through most of the ship, which is resting on its side at a depth of more than 40 meters (132 feet) off the country's southern coast.
But as days go by, they are retrieving fewer and fewer bodies.
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Diver dies at S. Korea ferry disaster site

Diver dies at S. Korea ferry disaster site

6 May 2014 | 07:41 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. A diver died Tuesday while working at a ferry disaster site in South Korea as further details emerged about how deception and negligence contributed to the April 16 tragedy, AFP reported.
The 53-year-old was on his first dive at the site and suffered breathing difficulties after reaching a depth of 25 metres (82 feet), coastguard spokesman Ko Myung-Suk told journalists.
The diver, who was identified only by his surname Lee, lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at a hospital, Ko added.
Full details of what happened have yet to emerge but Yonhap news agency reported he was a veteran crew member of private firm Undine Marine Industries, a specialist in maritime rescue work.
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Fears that S. Korea ferry victims may never be recovered

Fears that S. Korea ferry victims may never be recovered

1 May 2014 | 08:32 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. The recovery of a body from South Korea's ferry disaster some distance from the submerged vessel fuelled concerns Thursday that many among the scores still missing may never be found, AFP reported.
More than two weeks after the 6,825-tonne Sewol capsized and sank, 213 people have been confirmed dead but 89 remain unaccounted for, much to the frustration and anger of the victims' families.
On Wednesday, a fishing boat pulled a body from the sea about two kilometers (1.2 miles) away from the main recovery site off the southern island of Jindo.
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S. Korean president 'sorry' for ferry disaster

S. Korean president 'sorry' for ferry disaster

29 April 2014 | 08:08 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korean President Park Geun-Hye apologised Tuesday for her government's failure to combat systemic and regulatory "evils" blamed for the loss of about 300 lives in a ferry disaster, AFP reported.
Two days after her prime minister resigned over the tragedy, Park's comments are another attempt to defuse growing public anger about the April 16 sinking of the 6,825-tonne Sewol.
"I don't know how to apologise for the failure to prevent this accident, and for the insufficient first response," Park said in a statement to her cabinet that was broadcast on national television.
"I am sorry to the people and heavy-hearted that many precious lives were lost."
Park's government has been widely criticised over perceived corruption and lax safety standards that may have led to the disaster, with claims that the ferry was overloaded and that the passenger list was inaccurate and incomplete.
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Sea traffic controllers probed over S. Korea ferry: reports

Sea traffic controllers probed over S. Korea ferry: reports

27 April 2014 | 08:57 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korean prosecutors raided the offices of state sea traffic controllers, media reports said Sunday, as part of a widening probe into a ferry disaster that left 300 dead or missing, AFP reported.
The move is the latest in an investigation whose scope is broadening as officials scurry to assuage mounting public anger over the April 16 tragedy and the subsequent rescue efforts.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won fell on his sword, the most high-profile resignation so far, after admitting he had not been able to prevent the accident or deal adequately with its aftermath.
Prosecutors are already holding all 15 surviving crew members who were responsible for sailing the vessel. They face charges ranging from criminal negligence to abandoning passengers.
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S. Korean prime minister resigns over ferry sinking

S. Korean prime minister resigns over ferry sinking

27 April 2014 | 05:12 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won tendered his resignation Sunday over the sinking of a passenger ferry that left more than 300 people dead or missing, AFP reports.

"I offer my apology for having been unable to prevent this accident from happening and unable to properly respond to it afterwards," he said. "I believed I, as the prime minister, certainly had to take responsibility and resign."

The Sewol, a large passenger ferry, capsized with 476 people - many of them schoolchildren - on board when it was en route to the southern resort island of Jeju on April 16. The confirmed death toll from the tragedy stood Sunday at 187, with 115 unaccounted for.

The government, along with almost all other branches of officialdom, has come in for fierce criticism over the disaster, and the handling of the rescue operation.
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Race to recover bodies from Korea ferry as storms loom

Race to recover bodies from Korea ferry as storms loom

25 April 2014 | 07:39 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Dive teams raced Friday to pull more than 100 bodies from a sunken South Korean ferry as storm clouds loomed and the victims' families angrily pressed officials to wrap up the recovery effort, AFP reported.
The confirmed death toll stood at 181, but 121 people remained unaccounted for - their bodies believed still trapped in the submerged vessel that capsized on April 16 with 476 people on board.
Although all hope of finding any survivors has been extinguished, there is still anger and deep frustration among the relatives over the pace of the recovery operation off the southern island of Jindo.
Gentle tides and good weather have helped the dive teams in recent days, but the search conditions inside the ferry are still challenging and rescuers are only managing to retrieve around 30 bodies a day.
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Angry parents seek autopsies of Korea ferry victims

Angry parents seek autopsies of Korea ferry victims

24 April 2014 | 09:14 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Some parents of the mostly teenage victims of South Korea's ferry disaster are pushing for autopsies that might show their children were alive inside the submerged vessel and only died because the emergency response was so slow, AFP reported.
The confirmed death toll on Thursday stood at 169, but 133 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior.
More than a week after the 6,825 tonne Sewol capsized and sank with 476 people on board, most of them high school students, there is still widespread anger among the victims' families over the pace of the initial rescue effort.
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Grief, anger at memorial for Korea ferry student victims

Grief, anger at memorial for Korea ferry student victims

23 April 2014 | 14:05 | FOCUS News Agency
Ansan. Thousands of mourners paid tearful respects Wednesday at a temporary memorial to the hundreds of student victims of South Korea's ferry disaster, as the grim search for bodies entered a second week, AFP reported.
The confirmed death toll stood at 150, but 152 were still unaccounted for, their bodies believed trapped in the inverted, submerged ship that sank a week ago in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.
As the relatives of the missing began their daily vigil at the harbour on Jindo island, where bodies recovered from the disaster site are brought, others converged on a temporary memorial to the victims in Ansan, 200 miles (320 kilometres) to the north.
Ansan has become a focal point of national mourning. The city is home to the Danwon High School which had 352 students and a dozen teachers on the Sewol when it capsized.
Nearly 280 students are among the dead and missing.
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Korea ferry survivors are also victims

Korea ferry survivors are also victims

23 April 2014 | 08:58 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. The desperate, tragically fruitless search for survivors of South Korea's ferry disaster has so far overshadowed the damaging psychological legacy inflicted on those who managed to escape the sinking vessel, AFP reported.
A total of 174 passengers and crew survived the capsize of the 6,825-tonnes Sewol a week ago, that left around 300 people dead or missing.
Among them were 75 students from Danwon High School, who must now try and rebuild lives shattered by the trauma not just of the incident itself but also the loss of around 250 of their classmates.
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Grim ferry disaster search enters second week

Grim ferry disaster search enters second week

23 April 2014 | 06:39 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. The search for scores of passengers still missing from South Korea's ferry disaster entered a second week Wednesday, to the deepening distress of their grieving, angry and frustrated families, AFP reports.
The confirmed death toll stood at 146, but 156 were still unaccounted for, their bodies believed trapped in the inverted, submerged ship that sank a week ago in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.
As the relatives of the missing began their daily vigil at the harbour of Jindo island, where bodies recovered from the disaster site are brought, others converged on a temporary memorial to the victims in Ansan city, 200 miles (320 kilometres) to the north.
Ansan has become a focal point of national mourning. The city is home to the Danwon High School which had 352 students and a dozen teachers on the Sewol when it capsized.
Nearly 280 students are among the dead and missing.
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First distress call on S. Korean ferry from passenger, not crew, coast guard says

First distress call on S. Korean ferry from passenger, not crew, coast guard says

23 April 2014 | 02:34 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. The first distress call from the ferry Sewol came not from the crew, but from a boy who used a cell phone to contact emergency services from aboard the sinking ship, the South Korean coast guard confirmed to CNN Tuesday.
CNN affiliate JTBC reported that the boy dialed South Korea's emergency number, telling dispatchers for a local fire service, "Help us. The boat is sinking." The boy's fate was not clear.
It was not until three minutes later, the coast guard told CNN, that the ship's crew made a distress call to maritime officials.
The revelation is likely to add to questions about the conduct of the crew, nine of whom are facing charges in last week's sinking.
Among other things, authorities have questioned why an inexperienced third mate was guiding the ship at the time of the accident, why so few of the ferry's life rafts were deployed and why crew members ordered passengers to don life vests and stay put.
At least 128 people are confirmed dead and 174 are still missing, according to the coast guard.
That number could rise on news that divers have now reached the ship's cafeteria, where many passengers were thought to be when the ship began to have troubles last Wednesday.
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Korean ferry death toll rises to 80

Korean ferry death toll rises to 80

21 April 2014 | 15:36 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Divers retrieved the bodies of 16 more people who died when the Sewol ferry sank off South Korea, RIA Novosti reported.
Thus the death toll rose to 80.
476 people were on board the vessel which capsized on April 16.
Some 222 people are still unaccounted for.

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Sewol ferry had stability issues after being accommodated for more passengers

Sewol ferry had stability issues after being accommodated for more passengers

21 April 2014 | 12:52 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Captain of the sunken off South Korea Sewol ferry, who was having days off when the tragedy occurred, said speaking before the investigating authorities he had more than once filed signals over stability issues of the vessel after it had been accommodated for more passengers, KBS reported.
The authorities wanted to question the captain in his capacity of a witness.
The prosecutor’s office hopes he could shed light on the crew’s work, the organisation of the way the ship was managed and others.
According to the media, the ferry was accommodated for some 117 more passengers, which increased its weight with 239 tonnes.
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Four more crew detained over S. Korea ferry disaster

Four more crew detained over S. Korea ferry disaster

21 April 2014 | 09:51 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korean prosecutors said Monday they had detained four more crew members in a widening investigation into a ferry disaster that left hundreds missing, presumed dead, AFP reported.
Three officers and one engineer from the capsized ferry Sewol were taken into police custody, a prosecutor on the case told AFP, following the arrest at the weekend of the captain and two other crew members.
The 6,825-tonne ship sank off the southwest coast on Wednesday with 476 people on board - mostly high school students on a holiday trip.
Captain Lee Joon-Seok Lee was arrested on Saturday along with a helmsman and the ship's relatively inexperienced third officer, who was in charge of the bridge when the ship first ran into trouble.
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Death toll from sunken ferry rises as search continues

Death toll from sunken ferry rises as search continues

21 April 2014 | 08:28 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. The death toll from a sunken ferry off South Korea's south coast rose to 64 on Monday as divers stepped up their search for passengers remaining missing in the disaster, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Hopes of finding any survivors were fading rapidly as none of the 302 missing passengers have been found alive since the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol capsized and sank off the southwestern island of Jindo on Wednesday.
Of the 476 people on board, only 174 passengers, including the ferry's captain and most of its crew, were rescued as the boat listed due to what is believed to have been a sharper than usual turn.
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Ferry captain's action 'tantamount to murder', according ot South Korea President

Ferry captain's action 'tantamount to murder', according ot South Korea President

21 April 2014 | 06:13 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said Monday that the behaviour of the captain and crew of the ferry that capsized five days ago with 476 people on board was unacceptable and "tantamount to murder," AFP reports.
"The actions of the captain and some crew members were utterly incomprehensible, unacceptable and tantamount to murder," the presidential Blue House quoted Park as saying in a meeting with senior aides.
"Not only my heart, but the hearts of all South Koreans have been broken and filled with shock and anger," said Park, who had been heckled Thursday when she met relatives of the hundreds of passengers still missing -- most of them schoolchildren.
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South Korea ferry transcript reveals evacuation panic: AFP

South Korea ferry transcript reveals evacuation panic: AFP

21 April 2014 | 03:57 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Panic-stricken and fumbling for a response, the crew of a South Korean ferry dithered over the evacuation of passengers in the crucial final moments before it sank, according to a transcript cited by AFP, as divers began retrieving bodies from the vessel.
Investigators arrested ferry captain Lee Joon-Seok on Saturday along with a helmsman and the ship's relatively inexperienced third officer, charging them with negligence and failing to secure the safety of hundreds of passengers -- most of them children on a high school holiday trip.
In the final nerve-wracking moments before the vessel began listing dangerously, an unidentified crew member on the 6,825-tonne Sewol repeatedly asked an official from Jindo Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) whether help was on the way.
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South Korean ferry death toll rises to 60

South Korean ferry death toll rises to 60

20 April 2014 | 18:31 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Number of the victims of the South Korean ferry that sank four days ago has reached 60, CNN reported.
Some 242 people are still unaccounted for.
Some 476 people were on board the Sewol ferry, and 324 of them were students.


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'Wake up, please!': Death toll from South Korean ferry rises to 56

'Wake up, please!': Death toll from South Korean ferry rises to 56

20 April 2014 | 11:54 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Body after body came ashore from the capsized South Korean ship, a solemn process pierced by the deafening screams and cries from the passengers' families, CNN reported.
The wrenching scene came after four police boats arrived in rapid succession. The first carried four bodies. The second boat had three more. The third and fourth also carried three bodies each.
Each body was taken onto a stretcher on the dock in Jindo, draped in cloth. After an inspection, they were carried along a path guarded by police -- who were also shedding tears -- and past grieving family members.
Some relatives refused to accept the outcome.
"Wake up! Wake up, please!" one man screamed.
With about 250 people still missing after the ferry sank Wednesday, the heartbreaking scene will likely play out over and over again.
At least 56 bodies have been found so far, the South Korean coast guard said Sunday.
Although 174 people were rescued shortly after the vessel sank Wednesday, no survivors have been found since.
Nonetheless, 563 divers will continue plunging into the frigid Yellow Sea on Sunday. And 34 aircraft and 204 ships will aid in the search Sunday, the country's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said.
As they wait, relatives of the missing were asked to submit DNA samples.
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Angry South Korea families protest over slow ferry rescue

Angry South Korea families protest over slow ferry rescue

20 April 2014 | 08:04 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. Families of passengers on a sunken South Korean ferry have protested angrily over the rescue operation, BBC reported.
Police stopped up to 100 people trying to leave Jindo island intending to march to the country's capital, Seoul.
After more than three days, divers have now finally entered the ferry, retrieving 17 bodies and bringing the death toll to 49.
However, another 253 people are still missing from the Sewol ferry, which sank on Wednesday.
Some 174 passengers were rescued.
Since the capsize, many of the relatives of those on board have been on Jindo, in the south-west of the country.
Hundreds have been camping at a gymnasium on the island, awaiting news from the rescue operation.
Scuffles broke out when some family members tried to cross a bridge to the mainland, reportedly to march on the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, some 420km (260 miles) to the north.
"Bring me the body so that I can see the face and hug my child," shouted one woman.
Lee Woon-geun, father of missing passenger Lee Jung-in, 17, said: "We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done. They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others."
Relatives are anxious for the bodies to be retrieved before they decompose.

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Ten more bodies recovered from sunken Korean ferry: coastguard

Ten more bodies recovered from sunken Korean ferry: coastguard

20 April 2014 | 04:15 | FOCUS News Agency
Jindo. Divers on Sunday recovered 10 more bodies from the submerged South Korean ferry that capsized four days ago with hundreds of children on board, the coastguard said.
"Another 10 bodies have just been retrieved. Now the death toll stands at 46," a coastguard spokesman told AFP.
The spokesman gave no further details, but Yonhap news agency said eight of the bodies were male and two female.
Three other bodies had been brought out shortly before midnight, marking the start of the grim process of retrieving the remains of the hundreds believed trapped when the 6,825-tonne Sewol capsized and sank on Wednesday morning.
Of the 476 people on board, more than 350 were students from the same high school in Ansan city just south of Seoul.
Only 174 people were rescued.

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DNA test harsh step for families of missing ferry victims

DNA test harsh step for families of missing ferry victims

19 April 2014 | 10:08 | FOCUS News Agency
Jindo. Providing a DNA sample marked an emotional watershed for Han Mi-Ok -- a heart-wrenching acceptance that she was unlikely to ever see her child alive again, AFP reported.
Her son Song Kang-Hyun was one of 325 high school on board the ferry Sewol when it capsized and sank more than three days ago en route to the southern resort island of Jeju.
While some were rescued, hundreds remained unaccounted for and, for parents like Han, it was becoming harder to keep any sort of grip on the slim hope that they were alive in an air pocket somewhere in the submerged vessel.
The painful transition from hope to acceptance was played out in a green and white tent erected close to the gymnasium on Jindo island where hundreds of distraught relatives have been sheltering since the ferry went down Wednesday morning.
Inside the tent, two tables were manned by four men from the South Korean coastguard's Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) unit.
Their task was to take DNA samples from any relatives willing to provide them, in order to facilitate eventual identification of bodies recovered from the 6,825-tonne Sewol.
Twenty-nine people have been confirmed dead in the disaster, but 273 are still missing.
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Korea Ferry captain says evacuation delayed for safety: AFP

Korea Ferry captain says evacuation delayed for safety: AFP

19 April 2014 | 06:29 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. The arrested captain of the South Korean ferry that capsized with 476 people on board said Saturday he had delayed evacuating the ship because of the sea conditions and the absence of rescue ships, AFP reports.
Lee Joon-Seok and two of his crew were taken into police custody in the early hours of the morning, charged with negligence and failing to secure the safety of passengers in violation of maritime law.
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Arrest warrant sought for S. Korea ferry captain

Arrest warrant sought for S. Korea ferry captain

18 April 2014 | 14:46 | FOCUS News Agency
Jindo. South Korean prosecutors sought arrest warrants Friday for the captain and two crew members of the ferry that capsized two days before with hundreds of children on board, a coastguard official said, AFP reported.
"The joint investigation team of police and prosecutors asked for warrants to arrest three crew, including the captain," the official in the southern coastguard headquarters in Mokpo told AFP.
The request was submitted to the local court, he said, while adding that he was unaware of the precise charges.
The captain and most of his 28 crew managed to escape the ferry, and have been criticised for abandoning the ship when so many were still trapped on board.
Tracking data from the Maritime Ministry showed the ferry made a sharp turn just before sending its first distress signal on Wednesday morning.
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Rescued S. Korean school vice principal in apparent suicide

Rescued S. Korean school vice principal in apparent suicide

18 April 2014 | 12:00 | FOCUS News Agency
Jindo. A high school vice principal rescued from a sinking South Korean ferry that sank with hundreds of his students on board was found dead Friday, in what media reports said was an apparent suicide, AFP reported.
Local police on Jindo island said the body of vice principal Kang Min-Kyu, 52, was found near the gymnasium where relatives of the 268 people still missing from the ferry disaster have been staying.
"The precise cause of death is still under investigation," one police official told AFP.
Yonhap news agency cited police as saying he was found hanging from a tree having apparently committed suicide.
Of the 475 people on board the ferry when it capsized Wednesday morning, 352 were students from Danwon High School in Ansan city just south of Seoul.
They were taking the ferry for a school excursion to the popular southern resort island of Jeju.
The vice principal was among 179 people who managed to escape the ferry in the few hours before it capsized and sank.
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Captain not at helm of capsized Korean ferry

Captain not at helm of capsized Korean ferry

18 April 2014 | 10:10 | FOCUS News Agency
Jindo. The captain was not at the helm of the South Korean ferry that capsized two days ago, investigators said Friday, as anger spread over stalled rescue efforts for hundreds of missing passengers trapped by the submerged vessel, AFP reported.
More than 48 hours after the 6,825-tonne Sewol suddenly listed and then sank, a small of army of more than 500 exhausted divers - battling powerful currents in almost zero visibility - have yet to obtain any access to the ferry's interior.
The confirmed death toll stood at 28, but the focus of concern remained the 268 people still unaccounted for - hundreds of them children on a high school outing to the southern resort island of Jeju.
The newly recovered bodies were all floating in the water and none had been retrieved from the ship itself, coastguard officials said, as dive teams worked to find a way inside the submerged vessel in the increasingly slim hope of finding survivors trapped in air pockets.
"Two divers are currently injecting oxygen into the ship," a coastguard official said.
The only visible piece of the ferry, a small stern section of the keel, slipped just below the surface on Friday afternoon.
The weather conditions were challenging, with rain, fog and strong sea swells.
Of the 475 people on board when the Sewol capsized, 179 were rescued, but no new survivors have been found since Wednesday.
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Fears grow for hundreds missing in S. Korea ferry capsize

Fears grow for hundreds missing in S. Korea ferry capsize

17 April 2014 | 08:39 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. The frantic search for nearly 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, missing after a South Korean ferry capsized extended into a second day Thursday, as distraught relatives maintained an agonising vigil on shore, AFP reported.
Nine people were confirmed dead, but with every hour that passed fears mounted for the 287 still unaccounted for after the multi-storey vessel with 475 on board suddenly listed, capsized and then sank 20 kilometres (13 miles) offshore.
Naval and coastguard vessels used floodlights and flares to keep the search operation going through the night, but strong currents and low visibility hampered diving teams' efforts to access the vessel in the hope of finding survivors trapped in air pockets.
"Honestly, I think the chances of finding anyone alive are close to zero," a coastguard official told an AFP journalist on one of the boats at the capsize site.
The coastguard said 179 people had been rescued, a figure little changed from the previous evening.
The tragedy has stunned a country whose rapid modernisation was thought to have consigned such large-scale accidents to the past.
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Japan PM offers sympathy to S. Korea ferry victims

Japan PM offers sympathy to S. Korea ferry victims

17 April 2014 | 06:43 | FOCUS News Agency
Tokyo. Japan's prime minister offered "heartfelt sympathy" on Thursday to those affected by the ferry disaster in South Korea, in a rare moment of detente between the feuding neighbours.
Divers were searching for nearly 300 people still missing 24 hours after the huge vessel capsized off the southwestern coast of South Korea, with hopes of finding any survivors fading. Six people have been confirmed dead.
Speaking at a forum in Tokyo, Shinzo Abe, whose sometimes-abrasive nationalism has raised tensions between the two countries, said his thoughts were with those caught up in the tragedy.
"I extend my heartfelt sympathy towards people who were hit by the accident and their families," he said, as cited by AFP.
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Fears grow for hundreds missing in S. Korea ferry capsize: AFP

Fears grow for hundreds missing in S. Korea ferry capsize: AFP

17 April 2014 | 06:26 | FOCUS News Agency
Jindo. The frantic search for nearly 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, missing after a South Korean ferry capsized extended into a second day Thursday, as distraught relatives maintained an agonising vigil on shore.
Nine people were confirmed dead, but with every hour that passed fears mounted for the 287 still unaccounted for after the multi-storey vessel with 475 on board suddenly listed, capsized and then sank 20 kilometres (13 miles) offshore.
Naval and coastguard vessels used floodlights and flares to keep the search operation going through the night, but strong currents and low visibility hampered diving teams' efforts to access the vessel in the hope of finding survivors trapped in air pockets.
"Honestly, I think the chances of finding anyone alive are close to zero," a coastguard official told an AFP journalist on one of the boats at the capsize site.
The coastguard said 179 people had been rescued, a figure little changed from the previous evening.
The tragedy has stunned a country whose rapid modernisation was thought to have consigned such large-scale accidents to the past.
If the missing are confirmed dead it would become one of South Korea's worst peacetime disasters -- all the more traumatic for the number of children involved.
A total of 375 high school students were on board, travelling with their teachers to the popular island resort of Jeju.
President Park Geun-Hye voiced shock and pain at the "tragic" accident.
"Please do not give up until the very last moment," she said during a visit to the national disaster agency's situation room in Seoul late Wednesday.
It was still unclear what caused the 6,825-tonne Sewol to sink.
Numerous passengers spoke of a loud thud and the vessel coming to an abrupt, shuddering halt -- suggesting it had run aground or hit a submerged object.
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2 Dead, 290 missing after South Korea ferry sinks

2 Dead, 290 missing after South Korea ferry sinks

16 April 2014 | 13:58 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korea's coast guard says two people are dead and at least 290 missing after a passenger boat sank off the country's southern coast Wednesday, Voice of America reported.
The ferry was carrying more than 470 people, mostly students, to the resort island of Jeju when it sank in what appeared to be calm conditions.
Officials initially announced only around 100 people were unaccounted for. But they later drastically increased that number for unknown reasons.
Many could be trapped inside the almost completely submerged ship, though officials say some missing passengers may have been rescued by nearby commercial vessels.
South Korean Vice Minister of Security and Public Information Lee Gyeong-og said a massive rescue effort is under way.
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Up to 295 still missing in S. Korea ferry capsize: officials

Up to 295 still missing in S. Korea ferry capsize: officials

16 April 2014 | 10:33 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korean officials said as many as 295 people were still unaccounted for after a ferry carrying 477 passengers and crew capsized off the south coast on Wednesday, AFP reported.
As the government retracted an earlier announcement that 368 people had been rescued, the South Korean coastguard said it could only confirm 180 had been brought to safety.
"Our official tally is 180. We have no idea where that 368 figure came from," a coastguard spokesman told AFP.
Two people were confirmed dead.


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Hundreds of children rescued from ferry off South Korean coast

Hundreds of children rescued from ferry off South Korean coast

16 April 2014 | 06:13 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. All 338 high school students and teachers on board a South Korean passenger ferry that began sinking on Wednesday have been rescued, according to reports, quoted by the Guardian.
The ferry, identified as the Sewol, was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, en route to Jeju island, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the Korean peninsula when it got into difficulties and began listing dramatically to one side.
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South Korea ferry sinking with 450 on board

South Korea ferry sinking with 450 on board

16 April 2014 | 05:54 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. A ferry with about 450 people on board is sinking off the south-west coast of South Korea, coastguard officials say, BBC reports.
Rescue teams are at the scene, and many passengers have already been lifted off.
TV reports say remaining passengers have been told to jump into the sea to await rescue.
Lucy Williamson reports from Seoul.
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S. Korea rescue for sinking ferry with 450 passengers

S. Korea rescue for sinking ferry with 450 passengers

16 April 2014 | 04:31 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korea despatched coastguard vessels and helicopters Wednesday to rescue around 450 passengers - mostly high school students - on a ferry sinking off the southern coast, officials said.
"The ship is taking in water and sinking," a coastguard spokesman told AFP by phone.
"There are around 450 people on board and we have coastguard vessels, commercial ships in the area, as well as helicopters all engaged in the rescue operation," the spokesman said.
Earlier reports had put the number of people on board at 350.
Most of the passengers were believed to be high school students on a trip to the southern resort island of Jeju.
The Yonhap news agency cited rescue agency officials as saying 130 passengers had already been taken off the stricken ferry, which ran into trouble 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the southern coast.
"We heard a big thumping sound and the boat stopped," one passenger told the YTN news channel by telephone.
"The boat is tilting and we have to hold on to something to stay seated," the passenger said.
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Ferry with 350 passengers sinking off South Korea: AFP

Ferry with 350 passengers sinking off South Korea: AFP

16 April 2014 | 03:54 | FOCUS News Agency
Seoul. South Korean coastguard vessels were despatched Wednesday to rescue around 350 passengers -- mostly high school students -- on a ferry sinking off the southeastern coast, Yonhap news agency said, as cited by AFP.
The ferry had been travelling from the western port of Incheon to the southern resort island of Jeju when it ran into trouble, Yonhap said, adding that coastguard and naval vessels were involved in the rescue operation.
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