In the disaster, the Sewol ferry sank off the country’s southwestern coast, resulting in 295 deaths and nine passengers unaccounted for. Since the wreckage was brought ashore in April this year, the remains of four of the nine missing passengers have been found.
According to President Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok, documents were found that suggest the timeline of Park being briefed on the day of the disaster have been modified to be favorable to the former president.
|Presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok explains to reporters about records related to former President Park Geun-hye's activities during the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap)|
Im also said that Cheong Wa Dae’s crisis management manual had been changed in the weeks that followed the disaster.
“The previous administration said that then-President Park Geun-hye was first briefed on the Sewol at 10 a.m. on April 16, 2014, and gave the first order regarding the response at 10:15 a.m.,” Im said.
Im said that the documents discovered by the current administration, however, state that the first briefing was made at 9:30 a.m.
“The problem is that Cheong Wa Dae drew up the log again, with the briefing times changed. The log compiled on Oct. 23, 2014, six months after (the disaster) states that the first report was made at 10 a.m.,” Im said.
“It can only be considered that the change is intended to narrow the time gap between the time of the first report (to Park) and (Park’s) first order.”
Regarding the changes to the crisis management manual, Im said the orders were given by then NSC chief Kim Kwan-jin.
The changes state that the NSC was in charge of crises related to national security, while disasters come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Security and Public Administration.
In the unaltered version, the manual states that the NSC chief “acts as the control tower in a national crisis,” Im said.
Im also revealed that the duties required of the NSC chief were reduced in the altered version. According to Im, the original states that the NSC chief must aid the president in managing crises, analyze and assess related information, and plan crisis management measures.
In the altered version, however, the role is stated simply as supporting the president in “stable execution of state affairs” in relation to national crises.
Im went on to list the legal procedures involved in changing the manual, which includes review by the Ministry of Government Legislation, saying that the Park administration made the changes illegally.
“Cheong Wa Dae (under the former administration) ignored legal protocols, and altered the manual by crossing out (parts) and informed government ministries (of the changes) on July 21, 2014,” Im said.
“This illegal change appears to have been made to fit testimony by Kim Ki-choon, who said at the National Assembly that NSC is not the control tower in managing crises.”
Kim was Park’s chief of staff from August 2013 to February 2015.
By Choi He-suk