A total of 43 people have been indicted for allegedly committing various irregularities in the shipping industry that have been cited as a principal cause of April’s ferry disaster, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Investigators at Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office in the western port city announced the outcome of their expanded investigation into corruption and malpractice in the shipping industry.
The suspects, including a former chief of the Korea Shipping Association, a nonprofit organization in charge of inspecting and certifying vessels on behalf of the government, are charged with embezzlement, breach of trust and tax evasion, they said.
Lee In-soo, a former head of the KSA, is under suspicion of embezzling some 260 million won ($251,500) for personal gain, while failing to implement the organization’s duty to supervise ship operators.
Lee, who formerly worked as a ranking official at the maritime ministry, which has oversight over the industry, is considered one of the “bureaucratic mafia,” which refers to retired government officials who land jobs regulating business interests.
The much-denounced practice has been blamed for fostering cozy ties between regulators and businesses, contributing to sloppy safety checks on the ill-fated ferry.
Most senior officials at the KSA are former bureaucrats from the ministry, prosecutors said.
Another KSA official, surnamed Kim, is under suspicion of taking kickbacks from ship operators in exchange for overlooking various illegal acts of the companies, prosecutors said.
Kim, who formerly worked as a ranking official at the Coast Guard, landed high-paying jobs at agencies after his retirement, they added.
In May, President Park Geun-hye vowed to fight collusive ties between shipping companies, private safety inspectors and government ministries that she said created safety loopholes.
The Sewol ferry capsized off southwestern South Korea on April 16 after making a sharp turn. So far, 294 people have been found dead, with 10 missing presumed dead. (Yonhap)