Mistrust darkens outlook for Sewol bill

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Sept 2, 2014 - 20:31
  • Updated : Sept 2, 2014 - 20:31

The country’s political arena appears set for a drawn-out standstill with the mistrust over the Sewol ferry accident issues deepening.

On Tuesday, the spokesman for the families of those who died in the April 16 ferry accident accused the ruling Saenuri Party of lacking the will to resolve related issues and of ignoring their demands.

“The impression we got was that the ruling party considers (the latest Sewol bill draft) to be optimal within the boundaries of its interpretation of the law, not that (the bill) will reveal the truth,” Yoo Kyung-geun, the spokesman for the victims’ families, said in a radio interview.

Saenuri Party floor leader Rep. Lee Wan-koo and other key official met with the Sewol victims’ families of the third time on Monday, but the meeting lasted only 30 minutes.

Yoo also said that Saenuri Party policy committee chief Rep. Joo Ho-young was riled by the idea of the Sewol committee probing Cheong Wa Dae should it be given investigative powers.

The so-called special Sewol bill, which is to provide the legal grounds for addressing related issues and determine the cause of the accident, has held up work at the National Assembly, with the ruling and opposition parties refusing to budge from their stated positions.

The families have called for the committee mandated to probe issues surrounding the ferry disaster to be given full powers to conduct independent investigations and to indict the guilty. The ruling party has refused the demand from the outset, and offered to give the opposition party and the families more say in selecting the special counsel.

The ruling party, for its part, claims that talks with the families have failed to produce results since they lack a united position.

“It is difficult to judge what their unified position is. There are many opinions,” Lee said on Tuesday.

“There appear to be many who are providing assistance from the outside. It is difficult to figure out what the families and those providing assistance are thinking.” 
New Politics Alliance for Democracy leader Rep. Park Young-sun (left) talks with a relative of a passenger who is still missing from the April 16 ferry disaster in Jindo, South Jeolla Province, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

As for the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, its leaders went to Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, on Tuesday, as part of its ongoing campaign to reopen negotiations over the special bill.

“(I) did not expect good results from the third meeting. The families are angered by the Saenuri Party playing the media, spreading rumors while holding meetings with them,” NPAD leader Rep. Park Young-sun said after meeting the families of those still missing.

Park also said that National Assembly Speaker Rep. Chung Ui-hwa plans to mediate the issue.

“The speaker hopes (for the Sewol bill) to be passed on (Sept.) 5, but it is unclear how it will be played out,” said Park.

President Park Geun-hye, meanwhile, appears unaffected by the rising calls for her to meet with the Sewol victims’ families and to get involved in the Sewol bill issue.

A number of Sewol family members have staged a sit-in near Cheong Wa Dae demanding to meet her, while the NPAD has taken to the streets to seek a quick resolution to the issue.

By Choi He-suk (