The head of the operator of the South Korean ferry that sank in April with the loss of nearly 300 lives has gone on trial on charges of criminal negligence.

Follow all the latest developments of this story here and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Tuesday 24 Jun 2014

Student survivors of South Korea's ferry disaster will testify in the trial of the captain and crew by closed circuit TV from a courtroom in their traumatised home town, a district court ruled Tuesday.
   
The court in Gwangju, 265 kilometres (165 miles) south of Seoul, said the decision had been made to spare the students any further stress.
   
The ruling came as the court began to hear evidence in the trial of the captain and 14 crew, who are charged with criminal negligence and abandoning the passengers of the Sewol ferry, which capsized and sank on April 16 with the loss of nearly 300 lives.
   
Among the dead were around 250 students from the same high school in Ansan city just south of Seoul.
   
Captain Lee Joon-Seok and three senior crew members are accused of "homicide through wilful negligence" -- a charge that can carry the death penalty.
   
The 11 other defendants are being tried on lesser violations of maritime law.
   
Some 50 witnesses are expected to give evidence and the court said the students' testimony would be given during a special closed-door session at a court in Ansan.
   
"This decision was taken in consideration of the students who live in the Ansan area and may have difficulty travelling such a long distance in the aftermath of the accident," a court statement said.
   
The session will take place between July 28-30 and will be closed to the public to protect the students' "privacy and mental well-being", it said.
   
Most of the 75 students who survived the disaster were set to return to normal classes at Dawon High School on Wednesday.
   
It was not clear how many had chosen to testify in the trial.
   
The bulk of the charges against the crew arise from the fact that Lee and the others chose to abandon the 6,825-tonne ferry while hundreds of people were still trapped inside the heavily listing vessel before it capsized.
   
They were also condemned for ordering the passengers to remain where they were when the ship began listing.
   
A handful of crew members who stayed and tried to guide passengers to safety were among those who died.
   
Captain Lee's lawyer has vowed to challenge the homicide charge, citing the absence of any criminal intent on the part of his client.
   
The tragedy stunned South Korea, knocking the entire country off its stride and unleashing a wave of public anger, as it emerged that incompetence, corruption and greed had all contributed to the scale of the disaster.
   
Lee and his crew were publicly vilified in the wake of the tragedy, and there been some expressions of concern about how fair their trial can be in such a charged atmosphere.
   

Family members of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster leave the Gwangju District Court in the southwestern South Korean city of Gwangju (AAP)

Tuesday's hearing was largely given over to setting the trial schedule, although some technical evidence was shown linked to the structure and engineering of the Sewol.
   
According to Yonhap news agency, the defence challenged the prosecution's proposal to show coastguard video footage of the Sewol sinking, arguing that it was too emotive.
   
The court said the video would be admitted at a later hearing on July 8 to allow the defence more time to prepare.
   
The start of the trial's evidentiary stage coincided with the recovery of another victim from the submerged ferry.
   
It was the first body to be retrieved from the interior of the vessel in 16 days.
   
The body was of a female student and brings the total number of confirmed victims to 293, with 11 still unaccounted for.
   
The recovery operation has dragged on for more than two months, with the body retrieval rate falling off rapidly since the beginning of June.
   
Two divers have been killed and some have called for heavy cranes to be brought in to lift the sunken vessel.
   
Relatives of those still missing insist all the bodies must be recovered first, despite indications that some may have been carried away by the strong currents in the area.
  

Friday 20 Jun 2014

The head of the operator of the South Korean ferry that sank in April with the loss of nearly 300 lives has gone on trial on charges of criminal negligence.

Kim Han-sik, the chief executive of Chonghaejin Marine Co, which owned the Sewol ferry, appeared in court today with four other company officials.

All five face charges relating to allegations that the ferry, which capsized and sank on April 16, was regularly and dangerously overloaded with cargo in an effort to maximise route profits.

Yonhap news agency quoted Kim's lawyer as saying his client, as chief executive, felt "deeply responsible", but challenged the idea that he was personally to blame for the tragedy and the huge loss of life.

And a lawyer for another Chonghaejin official said he would dispute the prosecution's claim that overloading was a direct cause of the disaster.

A massive manhunt is under way across South Korea for Yoo Byung-eun, the 72-year-old patriarch of the family that owns Chonghaejin Marine Co through a complex web of holding companies.

He faces allegations of tax evasion, embezzlement and professional negligence.

Wednesday 11 Jun 2014

Thousands of South Korean police have forced their way into the compound of a splinter Christian group Wednesday in their search for a fugitive businessman wanted over April's ferry disaster.

Live television reports showed police officers, some in full riot gear, streaming into the sprawling church and farming complex at around 8am (1000 AEST) in Anseong, 80 kilometres south of Seoul.

A spokesman for the Gyeonggi province police force said 6000 officers were involved in the raid.

The huge operation came a day after President Park Geun-Hye urged police and prosecutors to step up a nationwide hunt for Yoo Byung-Eun, 72, a leading member of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea.

Yoo is the patriarch of the family behind the Chonghaejin Marine Co. - the company that owned and operated the 6825-tonne Sewol passenger ferry, which sank on April 16 with the loss of 300 lives, most of them schoolchildren.

"Yoo must be brought to justice," Park told a cabinet meeting.

He is wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence, as prosecutors investigate the extent to which the Sewol disaster was caused by a lack of safety standards and regulatory violations.

Yoo has no direct stake in Chonghaejin, but his children and close aides control it through a complex web of holding companies.

Prosecutors have offered a reward of close to 500 million won ($A530,160) for information leading to the capture of Yoo and 100 million won for that of his eldest son, Yoo Dae-Kyun.

Read more

Tuesday 10 Jun 2014

The trial has opened for the captain and crew of the South Korean ferry that sank almost two months ago.

Captain Lee Joon-Seok and three crew members are accused of "homicide through wilful negligence," a charge that falls between first-degree murder and manslaughter, but still carries the death penalty.

Thursday 5 Jun 2014

A diver has died while on a mission to retrieve bodies from the sunken South Korean ferry. (AAP)

The body of a victim of South Korea's ferry disaster has been found kilometres away from the sunken vessel, rescuers say, fuelling fears that some of the deceased may never be found.

Since the 6,825-tonne Sewol ferry sank off the southwest coast on April 16, 289 bodies have now been recovered, leaving 15 unaccounted for.

The ship was carrying a total of 476 people - mostly high school students on a school trip.

Even though no bodies have been recovered from the interior over the past two weeks, divers have continued searching the submerged vessel in extremely hazardous conditions.

Two divers have been killed so far - the latest just last week.

The body found on Thursday by a local fisherman was floating at sea 40 kilometres northwest of the sunken ship, the maritime ministry said.

Fingerprint tests confirmed the person was one of the missing passengers.

The recovery will underscore warnings that other bodies may have been washed far from the rescue site by the strong currents - and that some may never be recovered.

Friday 30 May 2014
A diver has died during the search for bodies in the sunken South Korean ferry.
A diver has died during the search for people still missing inside a sunken South Korean ferry.It's the second such death among divers mobilised since the ferry sank on April 16, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing.Government task force...
Wednesday 28 May 2014

The daughter of a fugitive Korean tycoon accused of being responsible for last month's ferry disaster has been arrested in France and will appear before a judge Wednesday, judicial sources told AFP.
   
Yoo Som-Na, 47, was arrested Tuesday at her Paris residence under an international arrest warrant issued in connection with the investigation into a disaster that claimed around 300 lives, most of them schoolchildren.
   
A judge will decide later on Wednesday whether she should be detained in custody pending a decision on whether to extradite her to South Korea, which could take several months or longer if she contests it.
   
Yoo Som-Na is the daughter of Yoo Byung-Eun, the head of the family which controls Chonghaejin Marine Co., the company which owned and operated the Sewol ferry that capsized and sunk on April 16 with hundreds of high-school students on board.
   
Yoo and his eldest son Yoo Dae-Kyun are being hunted by Korean authorities who suspect breaches of legal safety standards may have led to a tragedy that moved the whole world.
   
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Tuesday denounced fugitive members of the family as the "root cause" of the disaster. The government has offered a half-million dollar reward for information leading to the arrest of the father and 100,000 dollars for Yoo Dae-Kyun.
   
Korean prosecutors want to question the two men, Yoo Som-Na and another son who lives in the United States in connection with possible charges of embezzlement, tax fraud and criminal negligence.
   
Yoo has no direct stake in Chonghaejin, but his children and close aides control it through a complex web of holding companies.

Monday 19 May 2014

 

South Korea plans to disband its coast guard, after the ferry disaster which killed hundreds of people.
South Korea's president made that announcement, Monday, saying final responsibility lies with her.