Insensitive comments, behavior draw outrage in wake of disaster

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 23, 2014 - 20:16
  • Updated : Apr 23, 2014 - 20:16
A conservative commentator came under public fire on Wednesday after making highly controversial remarks on the ferry disaster, saying that the tragic accident will be used as a pretext for a civil uprising.

Jee Man-won, head of the private research institute System Club, urged President Park Geun-hye to take precautions to counteract a rebellion, irrationally suggesting that the sunken ferry Sewol could be “brushwood” sparking another “May 18 (Gwangju) civil uprising.” On May 18, 1980, tens of thousands of citizens in the country’s southwestern city rose up against the then-military dictatorship of General Chun Doo-hwan, who seized power through an internal coup. Hundreds of civilians were killed and wounded by the military during the nine-day riot.

“President Park should take a countermeasure before another May 18 riot breaks out, which is about to take place to overthrow the government,” Jee said in a posting on his website.

He went on to say that the ferry accident was attempted by “corpse traders” working under the supervision of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to cause an internal revolt.

The National Police Agency said it would consider launching a probe into Jee’s posting after receiving complaints from citizens. He will be investigated for defamation.

Jee is one of the figures who has stirred up anger and disappointment by unleashing rough words and conducting highly improper behavior at a time when the country is lost in grief over the ferry that capsized last week.

The death toll reached 150 as of 4 p.m. Wednesday with 152 still missing. The ship was heading to the resort island of Jejudo with 476 passengers, most of whom were teenaged students on a school trip. No survivors have been found since the day after the sinking.

A Korean coast guard official was also removed from his position on Tuesday evening for making inconsiderate comments to grief-stricken families of the victims.

When asked by a reporter whether the Coast Guard had mishandled the accident, the official said, “Wasn’t it an incredible job to save 80 people?”

The Coast Guard said it has released him from his position as his comment has deeply hurt the families of the victims.

The decision came only a day after the government accepted the resignation of a senior official at the Ministry of Security and Public Administration who brought on a deluge of public criticism after he tried to take a photograph of himself in front of the families of the victims at a port terminal on Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, near the site of the accident.

Some health ministry officials also became targets of criticism after they took an ambulance to their lodging from a support center set up for victims’ families on Jindo Island.

The seven officials, who were on night shift at the site, claimed that they needed the vehicle to carry two 50-liter ice boxes and 30 kilograms of chemicals needed to treat dead bodies.

By Cho Chung-un (