The high court in the southern city of Gwangju agreed with a lower court verdict that Kim Han-Sik had allowed the passenger ferry to be routinely overloaded and approved illegal renovations to increase its passenger capacity.
The Sewol sank in April last year, with the loss of 304 lives — most of them high school students on an organised trip.
The high court upheld prison sentences or suspended jail terms for five other officials belonging to Kim’s Chonghaejin Marine Co., while one was given a reduced sentence.
Kim had asked the court to reconsider the manslaughter charge, insisting he was just a salaried employee under the thumb of company owner Yoo Byung-Eun who he described as deeply involved in the firm’s operations.
But the argument was rejected, with the court ruling that Kim shared “collective responsibility” with other company officials and crew members of the Sewol.
An embezzlement conviction was also upheld, but the jail term reduced on the grounds that Kim had skimmed the money under instructions from Yoo Byung-Eun, rather than for his personal enrichment.
Following the Sewol disaster, Yoo became the target of a massive manhunt. His badly decomposed body was found weeks later in a field. (AFP)