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[Ferry Disaster] Woman questioned for slandering Coast Guard rescue operations

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Published : 2014-04-21 21:43
Updated : 2014-04-22 11:28

Hong Ga-hye doing interview on KBS a few years ago then again on MBN in 2014
A Korean woman who made a false claim in a television interview about the delayed rescue operation of the capsized ferry Sewol turned herself in late Sunday, police said.

The South Jeolla Provincial Police Agency on Saturday issued a warrant to detain the 26-year-old woman, surnamed Hong, who claimed that the Coast Guard told civilian divers to “kill time” and that some divers had confirmed survivors inside the sunken ship.

Police said Hong was immediately detained after voluntarily appearing at the police station. Hong reportedly admitted to making the remarks based on unverified rumors.

According to local wire Yonhap, Hong was first reached on Thursday through a social networking service by a writer from the broadcaster while she was heading down to Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province.

It is unclear which online service the network used to communicate with Hong. But after the accident, Hong wrote posts on her Twitter account recruiting licensed civilian divers.

In the interview, she claimed that the government stopped the divers from entering the water, and that some civilian divers had communicated with survivors inside the vessel.

“Other divers told me that the Coast Guard told them to ‘just kill time.’ Other officials told the families of the missing people that there is no hope or miracle,” she said, when asked by an anchor about the situation.

It was later found in a probe that Hong is not an authorized diver, Yonhap said.

Her remarks touched off a firestorm of public criticism, adding to public distrust of the government and media reports on the state-led rescue efforts.

As was seen in an interview of a victim’s parent on adifferent broadcaster, JTBC, the victims’ families’ anger has reached its peak over the government’s inconsistent reports on the numbers of missing passengers and deaths, and the slow pace of the salvage operation.

Police said they would continue to question Hong and MBN officials for details, in part to determine who first asked for the interview.

Police also said they plan to request an arrest warrant for Hong on Tuesday morning on charges of libel.

Investigators have pledged to seriously punish those who spread false rumors related to the ferry disaster, including text messages that claimed to be from survivors inside the sunken ship.

By Suk Gee-hyun (monicasuk@heraldcorp.com)

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