S. Korean ferry victims' relatives reject compensation plan

AP News
Posted: Apr 02, 2015 5:15 AM
S. Korean ferry victims' relatives reject compensation plan

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Dozens of relatives of victims of a South Korean ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people a year ago shaved their heads Thursday in protest of what they said were government efforts to settle compensation claims instead of thoroughly investigating responsibility for the disaster.

The relatives also called on the government to salvage the ferry Sewol off the country's southwest coast before starting the compensation process.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said its compensation proposals of about 420 million won ($383,000) for each of the 250 students and 760 million won ($694,000) for 11 teachers were based on age and future income potential.

When insurance payments and civilian donations of around 128.8 billion won ($117 million) are included, families of student victims will receive about 820 million won ($748,000) and dead teachers 1.14 billion won ($1 million), the ministry said.

Choi Gyeong-deok, the father of one of the students, said the government insulted the grieving families by announcing the compensation plans before completing a full investigation.

"I want to grab and kill the rude people who choose to talk about money a year after the death of our children," Choi said with a trembling voice after having his head shaved.

A ministry official, who declined to be named citing department rules, said the compensation plan was "final, for the time being." But he couldn't rule out the possibility that it might be discussed again.

The relatives want a more thorough investigation into possible official incompetence or corruption that they believe could have contributed to the accident and high death toll.

Officials have blamed negligence by crew members, excessive cargo and improper storage for the sinking, along with slow rescue efforts. A court sentenced 15 crew members last year to between five and 36 years in prison. A ruling by the Gwangju High Court on appeals by both the crew members and prosecutors, who said the punishments were too light, is expected on April 28.

A total of 295 bodies have been recovered; nine others remain missing.