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Families oppose compromise Sewol bill

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Published : 2014-08-20 19:10
Updated : 2014-08-20 19:11

Lawmakers as of Wednesday are still deadlocked over a special bill proposing to set up a prosecution team to investigate the April sinking of the Sewol ferry.

Floor leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy had ironed out a deal on Tuesday, briefly ending weeks of partisan bickering over the so-called “Special Sewol Bill.”

But families of the victims killed in the sinking demanded an overhaul of Tuesday’s deal, saying the compromised version of the legislation would likely not guarantee a “sufficiently thorough” probe into the accident.

With the victims’ families demanding a new version of the special bill, Saenuri and NPAD lawmakers will be forced to redraft the bill or persuade the families to support the compromise.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the families have not changed their stance. They are set to hold a meeting later in the day to debate whether to endorse the compromise.

The special Sewol bill aims to create an inquiry panel consisting of lawmakers and outside experts. The panel will determine why the Sewol sank and why follow-up rescue operations failed to save more than 300 of the 476 passengers.

The bill will also authorize President Park Geun-hye to pick a special prosecutor from a pool of candidates named by legal experts, lawmakers and the victims’ families. The special prosecutor will direct indictments and criminal investigations into suspects allegedly responsible for the maritime tragedy after conducting investigations vis-à-vis the inquiry panel.

Families say however the current version of the bill doesn’t guarantee the special prosecutor will be a credible investigator, as the president, someone whom the families believe holds some responsibility for the disaster, will have the final say on appointing the official.

The families have demanded more authority in choosing the special prosecutor.

The political impasse is preventing the passage of over 7,000 other bills, as opposition lawmakers refuse to attend a full parliamentary meeting unless the special Sewol bill is passed first. Some of the key bills include amendments to existing safety regulations, controversial tax laws sponsored by Saenuri lawmakers, and resolutions denouncing the Japanese government for its reinterpretation of the landmark 1993 Kono Statement last month.

The parties are hoping to agree on some kind of accommodation with the families within this month. The National Assembly’s next extraordinary session begins this Friday.

The Sewol sunk in the West Sea on April 16, leaving 304 dead or missing. Families of the victims and opposition lawmakers have been criticizing the government-led rescue operations on the day of the accident.

Two earlier investigations into the accident by prosecutors and lawmakers have failed to convince families that everyone liable for the accident has faced justice.

By Jeong Hunny (hj257@heraldcorp.com)

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