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South Korea court orders state to pay compensation in 2014 ferry sinking

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- A South Korean court on Thursday ordered the government and a ferry operator to compensate the families of the victims of a deadly ferry sinking in April 2014 that claimed the lives of over 300 people, most of them high school students.

The Seoul Central District Court awarded families the sum of 200 million won ($177,000) for each victim of the Sewol ferry sinking and 40 million won for each of their parents.

The court acknowledged negligence on the part of the state and ferry operator Cheonghaejin Marine Co., saying maritime police failed to make sufficient efforts to rescue passengers and that the ferry operator allowed the ship to set sail with an overcapacity cargo load, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The court also determined that crew members escaped before passengers could, after instructing them to stay put inside the ferry, according to the report.

The court further acknowledged that victims are believed to have endured fear while they waited for help as the ship listed and eventually capsized, Yonhap said.

The lawsuit was filed in September 2015.

The ship sank in waters off southwestern South Korea on April 16, 2014, claiming the lives of 304 people, most of them students on a school trip, in one of the nation's worst maritime disasters.

Then President Park Geun Hye came under heavy criticism for her government's poor handling of the initial stages of the rescue operation and her unexplained absence during the initial hours of the emergency.

Park was ousted from power in March 2017, nearly three years after the debacle, as the country's Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment in parliament over a corruption and abuse-of-power scandal.

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