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Gov't negligence, corruption behind tragic ferry accident in April: state audit

A flurry of governmental negligence and corruption was found to have contributed to the tragic ferry accident in April that left more than 300 people dead or missing, the national audit agency said Tuesday, announcing its decision to take legal action against 11 corrupt officials.

Releasing its interim probe result on the deadly ferry sinking, the Board of Audit and Inspection said that lax government regulation, disaster control failure and corruption by some government officials have contributed to the accident.

The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol, with overloaded cargo, began to list after making a sharp turn and sank in waters off the southwestern island of Jindo en route to the southern resort island of Jeju on April 16.

The official death toll stood at 293 as the national rescue operations continued for the 84th day. Most of the victims were high school students on a field trip to the island. Eleven people remain unaccounted for as of Tuesday.

According to the probe result, the regional Incheon port administration unjustly gave license to the illegally extended ferry while the government-commissioned ship safety inspection body, Korean Register of Shipping, failed to carry out proper safety checkups.

The Korean Shipping Association, a shippers' association in charge of securing safe navigation, also fell short of detecting the ill-fated ferry's overloading and cargo fixing problems before the ferry set sail, the audit agency said.

The Coast Guard also failed to prevent the tragedy by missing the crucial golden time for rescuing passengers from the sinking ship and botching its overall rescue operations, it said.

The Coast Guard did not maintain proper communication with the ferry Sewol and issued ill-matched rescue orders, the national audit agency added.

A total of 11 government officials have been referred to the prosecution on possible corruption charges, the agency said, also adding that it is reviewing a plan to take punitive personnel actions on another 40 state workers deemed to be responsible for the accident.

The interim probe result came after the audit agency conducted a two-month probe into the home affairs ministry, the maritime affairs ministry and the Coast Guard, as well as other state or quasi-state bodies, responsible for one of the country's deadliest maritime accidents in South Korea. It is the first released result of a probe into government institutions over the ferry accident.

The Park Geun-hye administration has been facing growing public distrust over the national disaster control system and public servants' discipline following the accident that sent shock waves throughout the country.

In an effort to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy, Park has previously announced her plan to dissolve the Coast Guard and launch a new government body in charge of public safety management. (Yonhap)
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