• Kyodo

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Prosecutors decided Thursday to shelve an indictment targeting the captain of the North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92.

The captain, Jang Chang Yong, had been accused of carrying more passengers than the ship’s prescribed capacity.

The Niigata District Public Prosecutor’s Office said that Jang, 56, had not deliberately overloaded the ship and was unaware it was carrying an excess of passengers when it left Niigata port for North Korea’s Wonsan port on Sept. 5.

On Sept. 17, the Japan Coast Guard sent Jang’s case to prosecutors, alleging that the ship had violated the Ships Safety Law by carrying 255 passengers, 35 more than its authorized capacity, when the ferry traveled to North Korea.

Jang apparently learned that the ship was overloaded around 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 5, some 90 minutes after leaving Niigata port.

The ship had already traveled about 29 km, according to investigative sources.

Under Japanese legislation, a ship’s captain can be prosecuted if he or she deliberately carries too many passengers.

Jang has told local coast guard officials that he entrusted the passenger head-count to relevant workers.

He said he was unable to confirm personally the exact numbers before departure, given the tense atmosphere surrounding government inspections of the ship.

The ferry resumed its visits to Japan in August after a seven-month hiatus.

It has been subject to strict checks amid allegations that North Korea has used it for espionage purposes and for the illicit trade of missile parts and drugs.

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