Korean Catholics demand ferry sinking investigation

A Catholic Korean group in Seoul this week gathered to give family members of victims in April’s Sewol ferry sinking a list of 130,936 signatures calling for an investigation into the disaster.

The signatures, which were handed over by the group Catholic Council for Investigating the Sewol, were collected from priests, monks, nuns, and congregants over the past three weeks.

“The Old Testament teaches that the public loses everything when it forgets God. We stand to lose everything from the disaster that awaits us if we forget the Sewol,” said Father Na Sun-gu of the Catholic Priests‘ Association for Justice.

The statement calls for “not only an investigation into the Sewol tragedy and punishment of those responsible, but also a new national community, the rebuilding of a collapsed human society, and the rebirth of a true church.”

The signatures include 123,081 from laypeople, 1,936 from priests, and 5,919 from monks and nuns.

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Meanwhile, the captain of the South Korean ferry was found guilty of gross negligence and sentenced to 36 years in prison following a trial.

The Sewol ferry was carrying 476 people when it went down. More than 300 died, most of them school students.

Lee Joon-seok was among 15 crew members on trial over the sinking, one of South Korea's worst maritime disasters.

Prosecutors charged him with homicide and called for the death penalty, but judges acquitted him on that charge.

The disaster was blamed on a combination of illegal redesigns, the overloading of cargo and the inexperience of the crew member steering the vessel.

Crew members did not secure cargo, which moved when the vessel took a tight corner, toppling the ferry, and Lee was filmed leaving the sinking ship while many passengers remained inside.

The chief engineer of the ferry was found guilty of murder and jailed for 30 years.

Thirteen other crew members were given jail sentences of up to 20 years on charges including abandonment and violating maritime law.

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