SEOUL- The captain at the heart of South Korea’s ferry disaster took part in a promotional video six years ago in which he said marine transport was safe as long as passengers followed orders.
Excerpts from the video were shown on local news channels, just as President Park Geun-Hye described Captain Lee Joon-Seok’s actions as his ship began to capsize on Wednesday as being “tantamount to murder.”
Lee was arrested at the weekend and charged with negligence and failing to secure the safety of hundreds of passengers — most of them children.
Survivors said the crew instructed them to stay put even as the 6,825-tonne Sewol listed dramatically, delaying evacuation that could have saved many lives.
Lee and most of his crew escaped before the ferry fully capsized with hundreds still trapped inside.
In the 2010 video, a smiling Lee, clad in his captain’s whites, promised a “safe and comfortable” journey from the western port of Incheon to the southern resort island of Jeju — the same route plied by the ill-fated Sewol.
“I think (a ferry) is safer than any other public transportation — as long as you follow the instruction of our crew,” Lee said.
A transcript released Sunday of the final radio communications between the Sewol and marine transport control indicated panic and indecision on the bridge as the ship began to sink.
At one point, marine control reminded Lee that the decision on when to evacuate was his alone to take.
“When it comes to evacuation, you, captain, make the final judgement,” the controller said.
The confirmed death toll stood at 64 Monday but was expected to rise dramatically with 238 people still unaccounted for.
Lee has apologized to the families of the victims, saying he was worried the passengers would be swept away if they evacuated too early.