Only 1 Ferry Crewmember Pleads Guilty

Only one out of 15 crewmembers of the ferry Sewol charged with abandoning around 400 passengers trapped on the sinking vessel has pleaded guilty.

The man was the chief engineer, surnamed Sohn. His lawyer said in a trial involving four of the 15 on Tuesday that Sohn "will not use the excuse of saying that he could not rescue passengers as the ship sharply tilted to one side quickly."

He also declined to plead innocence because the ferry's captain did not issue orders to rescue the passengers.

But the lawyer pleaded for mercy, saying Sohn suffered from profound guilt and depression and tried to kill himself in the aftermath of the April 16 disaster.

He blamed the greed of ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine, which pushed ahead with the remodeling of the ship in order to carry more cargo and ignored safety rules, and negligence of those responsible for overseeing it.

All three other crewmembers pleaded not guilty, claiming they were in a state of panic when the ship began to sink after tilting onto its side.

In the first trial last week, the ferry's captain, Lee Joon-seok and 10 other crewmembers claimed they did not intentionally abandon the passengers.

The crew were among the first to be rescued after telling passengers, mostly teenagers on a school trip, to remain in their cabins.

Sohn is the only crewmember to hire his own defense attorney, while the remaining 14 were assigned court-appointed lawyers.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 18, 2014 11:41 KST