Korean Prosecutors to Appeal MV. Stellar Daisy Ruling
The Busan District Prosecutors’ Office plans to appeal to a higher court over the verdict regarding the sinking case of South Korean ore carrier MV. Stellar Daisy, the International Stellar Daisy Network said.
To remind, MV Stellar Daisy sank in 3,400 meters of water in the South Atlantic Ocean in March, 2017, and only 2 sailors from the Philippines were rescued from the 24 crew members, including 8 Korean and 16 Filipinos.
The first trial took place last year, when the Polaris Shipping and its CEO Kim Wan-Jung (64), owner of MV. Stellar Daisy, were charged with violations of Ship Safety Law along with five other employees.
The investigation confirmed that the company had detected defects to the ship, which are believed to have contributed to the ship’s sinking.
Korean prosecutors demanded 4 years of imprisonment for the company’s CEO for not reporting the defects of the ship to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, which was required by the revised law.
The judgment on Feb 18 found him guilty for not reporting vessel defects, and not guilty for the maintaining balance of the ship. As a result, KIM Wan-Jung received 6-month imprisonment with 1 year of probation, and Polaris Shipping received a penalty fine of KRW 15 million (USD 12,426).
Stellar Daisy families were disappointed with the verdict as they believe the sentence was too light, and needed revision.
“Polaris Shipping found the flaws of MV Stellar Daisy, and MV Stellar Unicon, yet, it did not report it to the minister and continued its business for profit which resulted in the terrible sinking disaster of MV. Stellar Daisy,” the network said.
Furthermore, the families believe the light sentencing was made possible due to the expertise of the powerful and influential law firms that represented Polaris Shipping in the case, called KIM & Chang, and Pacific.
They claimed that “the sinking itself can not be the basis of the assessment of the case because its cause had not yet been revealed.”
As such, the real cause of the sinking needs to be determined.
Last February, the Korean government commissioned the American exploration company Ocean Infinity and it found the wreck of the vessel and retrieved the VDR.
The VDR had two data chips: one was cracked, making data extraction impossible, and only 7% of the data has been restored from the other chip. It did not include the voices of crew members during the last moments before it sank.
As such, both the Korean congress and the affected families of the victims are asking for a second search to be conducted to determine the cause of the ship’s sinking, and recover the remains of the crewmen which were spotted during the last search.
The Committee of MV Stellar Daisy (Korean) Families & The Citizens Committee are asking the Korean government to cover the cost of the additional search and claim compensation from the Polaris Shipping Company afterward.
The efforts have received support from the Sewol families.
The Sewol ferry sank off Jindo Island on April 16, 2014, killing 304 people, 250 of whom were high school students on a school trip.
A South Korean court issued a ruling in 2018 saying the state was also guilty of negligence that caused the incident.
The Sewol families resorted to legal action after evidence emerged that the response and salvage operations after the sinking were mishandled and that there were attempts to cover up the facts.
An investigation into the incident said that several factors had led to the sinking of the ferry, including an illegal remodeling of the ferry to increase the cargo load, cargo overloading, and the steersman’s poor helmsmanship.
The court ordered the children of the late YOO Byung-Un, owner of Sewol ferry, to pay the state damages worth 170 billion won (USD 140,837,282) as of Jan 17, 2020.
“As a result of fierce effort from the Sewol ferry families, the vessel safety law was revised and the accused were found partially guilty,” HEO Young-ju, co-chair of MV. Stellar Daisy Korean families said at a press conference last week.
“Therefore, we will not stop our fight to find the truth which will eventually leave another important legacy in our society.”