The deadliest sea incident in South Korea within recent years occurred in April 2014 when over 300 people died as a result of the shipwreck of the Sewol ferry. In 2015, a panel of maritime experts, lawyers and civilians were set up to investigate the incident.
"This court ruled on whether the suspects abused their power to obstruct the Sewol panel's foundation and activities, instead of whether they are morally or politically responsible," judge Min Cheol-ki said, as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.
Former Presidential Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee, former Presidential Secretary for Political Affairs Cho Yoon-sun, former Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Kim Young-suk and former Vice Oceans Minister Yoon Hak-bae were among those sentenced.
One more suspect, former Presidential Secretary for Economic Affairs Ahn Jong-beom, has been cleared of charges, the news outlet added.