SEOUL, April 21 (UPI) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in a press conference Monday the conduct of the ferry crew was "like an act of murder."
"Above all the conduct of the captain and some crew members is wholly unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense and it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated," the president said.
Park's harsh words were paired with a promise that the crew members involved will be held "criminally responsible" for the tragedy. She said the crew unnecessarily delayed evacuation of the ferry, causing the massive loss of life.
Transcripts from the ship's communication showed that the crew initially told the passengers to stay in their cabins rather than evacuate. The captain and crew were some of the first to be rescued, leaving the inexperienced third mate behind the wheel to navigate the turbulent waters for the first time on his own.
Captain Lee Joon-seok issued a brief, public apology, but stands by his decision to delay evacuation of the ship, basing his reasoning on the lack of lifeboats and rough seas. The captain has been charged with abandoning his boat, negligence, causing bodily injury and violating the "seaman's law," which prohibits a captain from leaving his ship.