Opposition party hints at further negotiations over Sewol bill

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Aug 10, 2014 - 20:26
  • Updated : Aug 10, 2014 - 20:48
Main opposition leader Rep. Park Young-sun on Sunday hinted at further negotiations over the “Special Sewol Bill” that has raised ire among relatives of victims.

“There is room for negotiation regarding the method for selecting the special counsel,” Park, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy emergency committee chair, said at the National Assembly.

She added that making the probe committee as advantageous as possible for the families was her priority, and stressed that the negotiations are not over.

“The agreement cannot move forward if the negotiations over witnesses for the parliamentary investigation is not closed.”

The NPAD has been calling for high-level government officials including presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon to appear for questioning.

In reaching the agreement, the NPAD backed down on its demands to give the right to appoint the special counsel to the opposition or to the families of the victims. The demand, along with that for giving investigative powers to the committee for delving into the cause of the accident, had been a main stumbling block for the two parties.

Since the two sides reached an agreement on Thursday, the bill has been raising increasing resistance from families of the victims and opposition lawmakers.

“(The bill) cannot be allowed, and cannot be accepted. Starting from the beginning is the command of the Sewol families and the command of the people,” said Kim Byung-kwon, a representative of victims’ families. 
Families of those who died in the Sewol ferry accident and citizens stage a protest outside the New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s office in Seoul on Saturday. (Yonhap)

The family of the victims have called the agreement “collusion” accusing NPAD’s Park of turning her back on them despite her promises to represent their needs.

A number of candlelight vigils were held at various locations, while families of the victims forced their way into the NPAD office to demand a renegotiation.

NPAD heavyweights including potential presidential runners Rep. Moon Jae-in and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon have also added their voices to the calls.

“The families’ approval is more important than the ruling party-opposition agreement,” Moon wrote on his Twitter account on Friday.

“If they cannot agree, then the right thing to do is for the parties to put their heads together again.”

Chung Dong-young, former presidential candidate and NPAD senior adviser, also urged opposition lawmakers to vote to restart the negotiations at Monday’s general meeting.

“Please demand a renegotiation, and the party could be saved and the pains of the victims’ families could be embraced if Park makes the decision,” Chung said in letters sent to NPAD lawmakers.

“Park’s democratic leadership will only be strengthened. The people will applaud (Park) for acknowledging a mistake and returning to the right place.”

For its part, the ruling party dismissed such calls as groundless.

“If the agreement falls apart, the National Assembly will once again become mired in a long-term deadlock,” Saenuri Party floor spokesman Rep. Yoon Young-seok said Sunday.

“(If NPAD breaks the agreement) the people will lose all expectations for the party. The NPAD must stop the attempt to make the wheels of Korea turn backward.”

By Choi He-suk (