[Ferry Disaster] Parties bicker over Park’s lackluster ferry disaster apology

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 30, 2014 - 21:07
  • Updated : Apr 30, 2014 - 21:07
Rival parties on Wednesday clashed over President Park Geun-hye’s apology, with the main opposition party labeling it as disappointing and the ruling party dismissing the reaction as an attempt to start a political fight.

The New Politics Alliance of Democracy on Wednesday stepped up its attack against Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Saenuri Party by saying that Park’s apology was not enough to console the people.

“We hoped that it would give comfort to the people, but the president’s apology added anger to the people and victims’ families,” said NPAD cochairman Rep. Kim Han-gil during a party meeting.

“If (she) had said that she, too, feels guilty and that she feels tremendous responsibility, she could have given at least some comfort,” Kim said.

Kim’s comment came a day after victims’ families protested against the president, saying her apology was “informal” and showed a lack of sincerity. Reports say the families have removed wreaths sent by Park and her predecessor Lee Myung-bak from a joint memorial altar launched in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province. Most of victims of the sunken ferry Sewol were students from Ansan who were on a school trip to the resort island of Jejudo.

Park visited the altar on Tuesday morning and offered an apology for the government’s failure to adequately cope with the disaster later in the day during a Cabinet meeting. She said she was “sorry to the people and was heavy-hearted.” It was her first public apology over the accident.

The ruling Saenuri Party denounced the opposition party for raising questions about Park’s apology, pointing out that this is not the time for political wrangling. Some Saenuri members charged that the NPAD was trying to sway voters ahead of the June 4 local election.

“Recovery efforts are still underway, so we should concentrate on that, rather than raise a political dispute over the president’s apology,” Saenuri floor leader Choi Kyoung-hwan was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

“After the recovery efforts are over, there will be comprehensive legal and institutional modifications as well as personnel reform,” he added.

Some critics also lashed out at the opposition, saying that its attempts to politicize the issue were “completely inappropriate” and “wrong.”

Yang Seung-ham, professor of political science at Yonsei University, said it was risky for the opposition to raise such issues at this sensitive time when the nation is still in grief.

“Victims’ families can blame Park and the way she expressed her apology, but not politicians from the opposition party,” he said.

“They should have thought about sharing the pain and discussing (with the ruling party) ways to prevent another tragedy or to manage the crisis,” he added.

By Cho Chung-un (