Seoul mayoral candidate Chung Mong-joon continues to be dogged by his youngest son’s comments on the Sewol ferry disaster as he gears up for the 13-day campaign period that kicks off Thursday.
On Monday, a family member of one of the victims identified by the surname Oh filed a complaint against Chung’s son, Chung Ye-sun, for defamation.
Oh claims that the younger Chung’s comment was directed at the families of the victims as they were the only ones present at the scene. Oh also said that he filed the suit to prevent the issue from being ignored, and that the younger Chung must realize everyone is equal before the law.
On April 18, two days after the accident that left more than 300 people dead or missing, Chung Ye-sun wrote on his Facebook account that Koreans were primitive in describing the actions of the families of Sewol’s passengers. At the time, high-level government officials including Prime Minister Chung Hong-won were met with angry shouts and accusations from families on Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province.
Since then the Seoul mayoral candidate has issued several public apologies, the latest of which came at Tuesday’s forum on mayoral candidates’ policies.
Chung also said in a television interview on Monday that he was at fault for failing to properly educate his youngest child.
“He grew up alone as he is 10 years younger than (my) third child, I am sorry for not communicating with him and educating him properly,” Chung said in the interview.
The repeated apologies, however, appear to have had little effect in terms of damage control. Since the accident, and his son’s comment, Chung’s ratings have fallen significantly behind rival Park Won-soon. Before the accident, in contrast, the Seoul mayoral race was neck-and-neck with some polls even placing the former seven-term lawmaker ahead.
The younger Chung’s comment, and the suit against him, are also prompting commentary from prominent political commentators.
On Tuesday, progressive commentator and Dongyang University professor Chin Jung-kwon suggested that the younger Chung should apologize himself rather than letting his father do so on his behalf.
Conservative pundit Byun Hee-jae, in contrast, honed in on Oh’s claims. Through his Twitter account, Byun refuted Oh’s claims that only families of victims were present, citing the involvement of an “Ahn Cheol-soo party politician” and an independent online media reporter.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)