Ex-Korea Coast Guard chief, 10 others indicted for mishandling of Sewol SAR operations

The wreckage of the Ro-Pax ferry Sewol at South Korea's Mokpo New Port in 2017 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Trainholic)

The former chief and 10 other senior officials of the Korea Coast Guard have been indicted by South Korean prosecutors for their alleged mishandling of search and rescue (SAR) operations in response to a passenger vessel sinking which left 303 people dead and over a hundred others injured in 2014.

Former Commissioner Kim Suk-kyoon and 10 of his subordinates now face charges of failing to properly carry out SAR operations following the sinking of the Ro-Pax ferry Sewol in the waters off southwestern South Korea on April 16 of that year.

A special team of investigators asserts that the officials’ failure further raised the death toll from the sinking after an independent enquiry panel reportedly found evidence that the coast guard belatedly ordered the mobilisation of rescue helicopters.

The panel believes that one of the passengers who died after Sewol sank could have survived if a helicopter had been readily available to airlift him to hospital for immediate treatment.

Investigators are also looking into the allegation that Kim and the other officials had forged documents to cover up evidence of their mishandling of the coast guard’s response to the incident.

The 11 coast guard officials are the first individuals to be indicted after a new investigation was launched in November 2019 to identify the various factors that led to the sinking.

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