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South Korea Ferry: Sunken Ship Was Overloaded, Prosecutors Allege

Officials are investigating whether the doomed ship's operator bribed government inspectors.

JINDO, South Korea - The South Korean ferry that sank likely killing more than 300 people was carrying more than three times its recommended cargo, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

The Sewol was loaded with more than 3,600 tons of cargo when it left port, according to politician Kim Young-roc. Kim cited prosecutors for the figure, which is more than three times its recommended weight in cargo and more than double the weight of the ship itself.

Prosecutors also said they are investigating whether the ship's operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., bribed government inspectors to give the vessel a clean safety certificate. The firm has not publicly commented on the allegations.

Earlier Wednesday, investigators raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the firm, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

The ship's captain and 10 other crew members have been arrested or detained after it emerged it took 30 minutes to issue the evacuation order. The arrest document of captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, accuses him of negligence and said he performed an "excessive change of course without slowing down."

Meanwhile, divers continued the grim task of pulling more bodies from the submerged boat, a week after it capsized and sank traveling from Incheon to the island of Jeju. At least 156 people have been confirmed dead and almost as many bodies were believed to be in the flooded ship, most of them high school students.

- Bill Neely and Alexander Smith