The parliamentary panel investigating the Sewol accident will hold hearings at the National Assembly for government agencies from Monday to July 11, lawmakers said Thursday.
Rival parties will call up senior officials from more than 20 agencies including the Security and Public Administration Ministry, the Coast Guard and the Defense Ministry to answer questions about the government’s unsuccessful rescue operations on April 16.
Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon will be called in on July 10. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won could also be called in if lawmakers think answers from his senior secretary, who will represent the Prime Minister’s Office in the hearings, are unsatisfactory.
Kim could avoid coming to the National Assembly if President Park Geun-hye appoints a new chief of staff before the hearings. Yoo Jeong-bok, the former Security and Public Administration Minister and current Incheon mayor-elect, will most likely not attend, according to lawmakers.
All questions and answers will be made public, except for those concerning the National Intelligence Service on July 10.
Lawmakers will hold another round of hearings next month.
The agreement came after weeks of political bickering between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy over when to begin hearings and in what order each government ministry should be summoned.
Saenuri officials have backed holding the hearings as early as possible, before campaigns begin for the July 30 by-elections. NPAD officials have said hearings should begin after there has been sufficient time to study the related paperwork and visit government offices.
Families have asked officials to kick off the hearings in July, when divers still looking for the 11 missing people from the maritime disaster will temporarily halt operations. Lawmakers denied the request of the bereaved families to hold the hearings for the Oceans and Fisheries Ministry, the Coast Guard and the Navy in Jindo Island, near the accident site.
There is risk that the hearings will be politicized with the July by-elections approaching. The elections will decide which party claims 15 vacant parliamentary seats.
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org)