There is no doubt that the Sewol ferry disaster was one of the hottest issues in the June 4 local elections. As the campaigns heated up in the final days of campaigning, however, the usual smear tactics and other typical ills of electioneering reared their ugly head.
As more days go by since the catastrophe occurred on April 16, it is also getting increasingly less media coverage and fewer people talk about it. This may be inevitable.
But what’s worrisome is that now that the elections are over, the political community appears to be less devoted to dealing with the disaster than they had said they would be.
The string of planned political events also raise the possibility that the rival parties may not faithfully follow up on their promise to investigate the cause of the Sewol sinking and upgrade the nation’s safety system.
First of all, the ruling and opposition parties are highly likely to clash in confirmation hearings on the nominees for the prime minister and other senior officials to be named by President Park Geun-hye. Their political rivalry will likely intensify because they are bracing for the parliamentary by-elections scheduled for July 30.
But partisan strife is the last thing that should interfere with the parliamentary work on the Sewol, the worst maritime calamity in decades. In the first place, parties must ensure successful and smooth operation of the special parliamentary probe into the cause of the ferry accident.
The probe, which has yet to go into full swing, should be conducted in a purely bipartisan manner so that it can find out what caused the disaster, who are responsible, and what should be done to not allow any such mass disasters to happen again. In this sense, it was desirable that the rival parties agreed to include family members of the Sewol victims in the investigation.
Also requiring urgent action from the parties are the Kim Young-ran anticorruption bill and amendment of bills on the Government Organization Act and the Public Service Ethics Law, all aimed to correct the time-old illnesses that combined to cause the Sewol disaster.