Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol, arrives at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, June 10, 2014.
Hyung Min-woo—AP
October 27, 2014 9:05 AM EDT

Prosecutors on Monday requested the death penalty for the captain of a ferry that capsized off the peninsula’s southwestern coastline and killed nearly 300 people in April, marking an unusually severe punishment in a nation that hasn’t carried out the sentence in almost two decades.

CNN reports that the request was made during the closing arguments in court, with the prosecutors charging that Lee Joon-seok and three crew members of the sunken Sewol should be held guilty of murder for failing to deploy life rafts or life vests as the ship lurched into frigid water. Hundreds of high school students died inside of the flooded vessel on April 16, stoking widespread outrage at what became known in the local press as one of South Korea’s worst peacetime disasters.

A 30-year prison sentence for the crew member who was at the helm at the time of the ship’s sinking was also sought.


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