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South Korea Ferry Disaster

South Korea Ferry Captain: I Am 'Deeply Ashamed'

The captain of the ferry that sank off South Korea said that he was “deeply ashamed” Thursday as a criminal investigation began into the disaster.

Lee Joon-seok, 69, is being questioned by the coast guard, according to an official quoted by Reuters.

Lee appeared in front of Korean media with his face hidden in a gray hoodie. "I am really sorry and deeply ashamed," he said. "I don't know what to say."

Image: The captain of the South Korean ferry Sewol, which sank at sea off Jindo, is investigated at Mokpo police station
Lee Joon-Seok, center, captain of the South Korean ferry Sewol which sank at sea off Jindo. Yonhap via Reuters

Coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in declined to speculate on the cause of sinking, but denied earlier reports by Yonhap news agency that the ferry had turned too swiftly. He also declined to say whether the ferry had drifted from its usual route.

Lee was filling in for the regular captain, who was on leave, but had been at sea for 40 years and had traveled on the route before, ferry operator Chonghaejin said.

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Chonghaejin issued a brief statement via local media apologizing for the accident but has made no further comment.

Almost 300 passengers remained still missing after the vessel capsized and sank off South Korea on Wednesday.

- Alastair Jamieson