Regarding the causes of the Sewol ferry accident that claimed 304 lives in April 2014, some scholars have blamed neoliberal reforms such as deregulation and privatization for the safety regulatory failure. Others have highlighted the role of industry influence and corruption. Our analysis shows that regulatory capture was the crucial causal factor; moreover, this capture was institutionalized from the state-corporatist arrangements of the authoritarian period rather than reflecting new arrangements under the democratic era or corruption per se. The delegation of the critical safety regulation enforcement to the shipping industry association was not introduced as a neoliberal reform but in the context of state corporatism of the Park Chung-hee regime. Democratic governments continued to protect the monopoly of the lucrative Incheon–Jeju ferry business, contrary to neoliberal logic. The legacies of state corporatism persist despite post-financial crisis reform.