The South Korean coast guard says the captain of the Sewol, the ferry that sank with hundreds of currently missing passengers still aboard, “is under investigation as a possible criminal and was one of the first people to escape the doomed vessel,” ABC reports.
Lee Joon-seok, 69, left the ferry on a lifeboat 32 minutes after reporting an accident, officials said.
The captain appeared on Korean television today, his face covered by a gray hoodie.
“I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” he said, as he was being questioned at the Mokpo Coast Guard Office.
This 2012 NPR interview with an expert on maritime law, conducted during the furor over the behavior of captain Francesco Schettino during the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster which killed 32 people, covers a captain’s legal obligations in the context of the well-known phrase “go down with the ship.”
NPR: What actually is the captain's responsibility under maritime law?
ROD SULLIVAN: That old saying stems from salvage. If a captain left the ship, anybody could come onboard and salvage it. But in the modern Merchant Marine and in connection with passenger ships, he is legally required to render assistance to every single person trying to get off that ship, and also identify those people who may have been killed in the incident.