The inexperienced junior officer who was at the helm when the Sewol sank last Wednesday may have lied about her identity when she was rescued while hundreds of passengers remained trapped aboard, investigators believe.
Third mate Park Han-gyeol (26) apparently reached dry land along with the Sewol's captain even before the ferry had gone fully under, but authorities have not been able to find her name on the roster of survivors. Instead, the name Park Chan-gil is listed.
The captain, Lee Joon-seok (69), who was among the first to be rescued, told authorities on dry land that he was just an ordinary passenger.
The Chosun Ilbo checked with ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine that there is no employee named Park Chan-gil on its books.
Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Park on Friday even though her name was not listed among the survivors.
An investigator said, "We can't be sure if Park deliberately gave her name as 'Park Chan-gil' when she was rescued or if someone misspelled it or she was accidentally left off the list."
Park graduated from Mokpo National Maritime University and worked for an international ferry company. She started with Chonghaejin Marine in December last year.
A local coast guard said Park had only worked on the Sewol for four months and was still unfamiliar with the route, making it highly likely that she made a mistake.