[Ferry Disaster] Police blasted for surveillance on ferry victims’ families

2014-05-20 21:08

Senior police officials apologized publicly after two detectives from the Ansan Danwon Police Station on Monday night were caught shadowing the families of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster.

Choi Dong-hae, the chief of the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency, offered an immediate public apology, claiming the officers were following the families because of “safety concerns.”

Despite Choi’s prompt statement, authorities failed to explain why they did not apprise the families of their actions before tailing them.

There was a four-hour gap between the time of the initial order to follow the families and when the detectives were discovered, according to one official’s statement.
Relatives of those who died in the Sewol ferry disaster and survivors cry out for their loved ones at Paengmok Port on Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, on Tuesday, the 35th day of the search for the missing. (Yonhap)

About 30 bereaved family members were en route to Jindo Island from Ansan, to write a response to President Park Geun-hye’s apology on Monday morning for the failed rescue efforts in the Sewol disaster. At about 7:30 p.m., they stopped at a rest area, where they spotted a man wearing a black suit.

Some family members became suspicious as the man resembled a police officer they had seen at a rally in front of Cheong Wa Dae earlier this month. When they approached the man, he initially attempted to flee.

After a quick chase, the family members cornered the man, who finally admitted to being an officer from the Danwon police station’s intelligence division. They found another detective on the scene minutes later.

When they demanded an answer from law enforcement authorities, Choi and the head of the Danwon police apologized.

“I offer my deepest apologies for not notifying the families about the police officers’ presence beforehand,” Choi said in a televised statement.

The family members were not satisfied.

“But if the officers were there for our safety, exactly why were we not notified of their presence?” asked one family member.

The initial order for the detectives to follow the families was given “sometime between 2 and 3 p.m.,” said Kim Kyoung-woon, the head of the intelligence division at the Danwon police station.

“I personally gave the orders to follow (the families). I am truly sorry that the families were not notified.”

“No excuse,” Kim said when asked why the family members were not notified, despite at least four hours having passed between when the initial order was given and when the intelligence officer was discovered at the rest area.

By Jeong Hunny (hj257@heraldcorp.com)