The state auditor has launched a preliminary probe into government agencies related to the deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol over their safety management and disaster responses, its officials said Wednesday.
The Board of Audit and Inspection on Tuesday began looking into whether the four government agencies -- the ministries of maritime affairs and public safety as well as the Coast Guard and the Korea Maritime and Port Administration – were appropriate in overseeing safety practices and in their response to the worst maritime disaster in South Korean history.
On April 16, the ferry en route to the southern resort city of Jeju capsized in waters off the country's southwestern island of Jindo, leaving 302 people dead or missing, most of who were high school students on a field trip.
"In this preliminary inspection, we will take a closer look at how the agencies have been managing the operation of ships, including passenger ferries and whether they properly fulfilled their duties of safety supervision," a BAI official said, requesting anonymity.
"The probe will also look into their disaster management system and the way they have dealt with the Sewol case," he said, adding the auditor will "review what the media and experts have pointed out over the course of managing the Sewol accident."
The move is seen as a prelude to an intensive audit next month into the ministries under fire for loopholes in safety measures, lax safety enforcement and poor initial responses to the tragedy, which many say caused the loss of more lives.
Though the preliminary probe is supposed to mainly involve a review of documents received from those subject to the inspection, the BAI exceptionally dispatched its officials to offices of each agency to collect necessary data, according to the official.
"Upon drawing the results of the preliminary probe, we will decide whether to launch an official inspection into them," he noted.
It is unusual for the audit agency to open an inspection of a case into which a prosecution probe is underway. (Yonhap)