S Korea parliament passes bill on ferry compensation

S Korea parliament passes bill on ferry compensation

SEOUL - South Korea's parliament Monday passed a bill to compensate relatives of victims of last year's ferry disaster, in which more than 300 passengers died.

The bill calls for the establishment of a committee controlled by the prime minister's office to set the amount of compensation, which would be covered by state money and donations from citizens and enterprises.

The overloaded and ill-balanced ship capsized off the southern island of Jindo on April 16. Of the 476 people on board, 325 were high school students on an organised outing, with only 75 students surviving.

State scholarships will be provided to those students who survived the disaster.

The bill also calls for an unspecified sum in compensation for fishermen in Jindo who suffered losses because they were taking part in search operations.

The tragedy - blamed by many on regulatory failings, official incompetence and the ship's illegal redesign - plunged the nation into a lengthy period of mourning.

More than 50 people have been on trial on charges linked to the sinking, including 15 crew members who were among the first to climb into lifeboats. They were accused of abandoning passengers still trapped inside the ferry.

The Sewol's captain was jailed for 36 years for gross negligence and dereliction of duty, while three other senior crew members were sentenced to jail terms of between 15 and 30 years.

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