[Ferry Disaster] Officials, politicians blasted for insensitivity

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 21, 2014 - 21:42
  • Updated : Apr 22, 2014 - 11:23
Public criticism is mounting against some government officials and politicians accused of inappropriate conduct as the nation grieves for the lives lost in the Sewol ferry accident.

Song Young-cheol, a senior official at the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, has become a target of criticism after he tried to take a photograph of himself in front of the room for victims’ families at a port terminal on Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, near the wreck site. Song was caught by family members at the scene while asking his fellow officials to take photos with him in front of the list of victims.

Song later visited the room to hold a meeting with other senior officials. The enraged family members who witnessed him and his colleague taking photos demanded he offer an apology and blocked him from leaving.

When the official’s actions brought on a deluge of public criticism on social networking services, the ministry released a letter of apology and said Song had been removed from his post.

“The ministry apologizes for causing concern due to (the official’s) inappropriate behavior. We will strictly reprimand him and discuss related procedures,” the ministry said through its official Facebook account on Sunday.

On Monday afternoon, Song tendered his resignation. Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters that the ministry had immediately accepted his resignation.

Sejong City Mayor Yoo Han-sik also drew criticism for holding a drinking party on Friday. Yoo, who was nominated by the ruling Saenuri Party to run for Sejong major in the June local election, was summoned by the party’s ethics committee for causing public concern. But he was reprimanded with a light penalty that allowed him to keep his candidacy.

The main opposition party was caught off guard when a party lawmaker appeared at a public event wearing inappropriate clothing.

New Politics Alliance for Democracy Rep. Lim Nae-hyun is being criticized for participating in a marathon wearing an orange T-shirt and a name tag reading “National Assembly member Lim Nae-hyun.”

Political circles have remained low-key since last week due to the national tragedy, despite the upcoming local elections slated for June 4.

Rival parties, however, called on the government to make the utmost efforts to rescue the more than 200 passengers still missing.

“I urge the government to make every effort to search for and rescue the last of the (missing passengers),” ruling Saenuri Party floor leader Choi Kyung-hwan said in a meeting of senior party members.

“I join all the citizens in hoping that a miracle takes place in the rescue operations.”

Kim Han-gil, coleader of the NPAD, said, “We should make every effort possible for those who may be waiting for helping hands somewhere,” during a party meeting held to deal with issues concerning the ferry accident.

“We cannot give up yet,” Kim added. “I blame myself for failing to make the nation safer and feel terribly responsible.”

By Cho Chung-un (