SEOUL Ė The captain of the Sewol ferry, which sank a year ago causing 304 deaths, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in an appeals court on Tuesday, after judges revised up the 36-year jail term given in November.
The Gwangju High Court found Lee Joon-seok guilty of murder for deliberately failing to comply with his responsibilities as a captain during the incident.
According to the court, the conviction and sentence upgrade reflect the captainís passivity during crucial moments and his failure to give evacuation orders or make efforts to rescue the passengers.
The Sewol vessel sank on April 16, 2014, killing 304 people, mostly high school students from Seoul, in South Koreaís most fatal tragedy in recent decades.
The judge also expounded in his ruling that the vesselís highest authority was among the first to be rescued, showing a clear neglect of duty.
The prosecutors had sought death penalty for the 69-year-old captain, however the judge refrained from awarding the maximum punishment.
Last November, the captain was sentenced to 36 years of imprisonment by Gwangju District Court, which declared Lee guilty of accidental homicide, less than the murder conviction the prosecutors sought.
The Gwangju High Court also revised and reduced the sentences given in the earlier trial to 14 other crew members.
The crew members, sentenced in November to between five and 30 years in prison, had their penalties reduced to between 18 months and 12 years.