University students, professors march in Seoul over ferry bill

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Aug 25, 2014 - 20:09
  • Updated : Aug 25, 2014 - 20:09
Hundreds of university students and professors marched down Seoul streets Monday to demand an early passage of a special bill aimed at finding out the exact cause of April‘s ferry sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

The April 16 sinking of the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol off South Korea’s southwest coast has become a political issue in South Korea as critics argue that the government‘s initial failure to properly respond to the disaster has contributed to the high death toll.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, supported by the victims’ bereaved families, is pushing a special bill that, among other things, calls for the creation of a special committee charged with investigating the accident and prosecuting anyone who should be held responsible, including even high-ranking government officials.

The ruling Saenuri Party has accepted the opposition demand to create the investigative committee but disagreed over details, including whether to empower the committee to investigate without any limits.

On Monday, the rival parties remained deadlocked over the special bill, with the main opposition party demanding the sides resolve the impasse through a three-way consultative body that would involve family members of the victims.

As the standoff prolonged, anti-government protests mounted.

In Seoul, hundreds of students, joined by some of their professors, departed from two different schools -- Seoul National University and Kyung Hee University -- at around 3 p.m. on Monday, and were to convene later at Gwanghwamun Square for an evening rally.

Police said the two crowds, each estimated at 130 and 170, left the schools but the final turnout at Gwanghwamun in the center of Seoul was expected to be larger as more students were likely to join.

“Now is the time for university students to step in to take care of the bereaved families,” read a statement posted on the SNU student council‘s Website. “We said we wouldn’t stay put and that we wouldn‘t forget.”

It was not clear whether the protesters would later join some bereaved families and activists who have been staging a protest sit-in near the presidential office for the past four days, demanding a meeting with President Park Geun-hye. (Yonhap)