President Park Geun-hye stayed at her office on the day of April's deadly ferry sinking and received multiple reports on the accident, a ruling party lawmaker said on Wednesday, countering allegations that she'd been away from the presidential compound when the tragedy occurred.
Rep. Cho Won-jin of the Saenuri Party said he'd asked the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae for details on Park's whereabouts on April 16, when the ferry Sewol capsized, leaving 300 people dead or missing.
According to Cho, Cheong Wa Dae responded that Park stayed "inside the presidential compound" the whole day, and was briefed on unfolding events, either by phone or written memo, on 21 occasions.
"We've never disclosed the president's specific location to anyone at any time," Cheong Wa Dae said, according to Cho. "As long as she is inside the presidential compound, she is able to receive reports anywhere. She starts her day in the morning and works until she goes to sleep at night."
Cheong Wa Dae explained that Park had no commitments outside of her office on April 16, and first received a written report on the sinking at 10 a.m.
What Park did and where she was on April 16 became a sensitive political issue earlier this month, after a Japanese newspaper, Sankei Shimbun, reported that she had a secret meeting with an unidentified person at an undisclosed location.
The paper cited rumors that circulated in Seoul's financial community, prompting Cheong Wa Dae to vow to hold the Japanese newspaper accountable for its report via civil and criminal legal action.
On Aug. 8, presidential press secretary Yoon Doo-hyun had also told reporters that Park had been at her office at the time of the ferry sinking and received frequent reports on the accident.
In response to Cho's claim, Rep. Kim Hyun-mi of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) charged that Cheong Wa Dae's latest rebuttal contains no new information.
"There is nothing that indicates where exactly Park was, whether she actually read the reports herself and with whom she'd discussed these reports," Kim said. "We also have no idea what kind of orders she handed down and whether they were appropriate." (Yonhap)