Parliament passes law to reinvestigate Sewol sinking

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Nov 24, 2017 - 17:09
  • Updated : Nov 24, 2017 - 17:09
The National Assembly on Friday passed a special law on the reinvestigations of the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry and a scandal involving deadly humidifier disinfectants.

Under the new law, a nine-person special committee will be set up within 30 days to investigate the ferry sinking again for a maximum of two years. A Sewol special committee inquired into the ferry sinking from Jan. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016.

The bill was put to a plenary vote on Friday morning, following an agreement reached between the ruling Democratic Party and minor opposition People’s Party on an amendment to the bill on “societal disasters” as they narrowed their differences on a special case clause.

The People’s Party proposed that the special panel should refer to past records including transcriptions for cases already concluded by the previous special committee and given final court ruling. The ruling party, which initially had concerns that this might make it hard for the new panel to look into cases where no indictments were made, eventually gave its consent. 

Family members of the Sewol ferry sinking victims watch from the National Assembly`s main chamber as the parliament holds a final vote on a bill that calls for reinvestigations of major disasters, including the 2014 ferry sinking.(Yonhap)

The legislation was passed 162-46, with 8 abstentions. The two above-mentioned parties combined control 160 seats in the 299-member unicameral parliament.

The nine members of the special committee will comprise of four recommended by the ruling party, four recommended by opposition parties (three by the Liberty Korea Party and one by the People’s Party) and one recommended by the National Assembly Speaker.

The panel can begin investigations once it has six members after the law is promulgated.

If the committee makes a request for a probe by the special prosecution and the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee doesn’t vote on it for 90 days, it will be automatically submitted to the plenary session of the National Assembly.

The law was fast tracked on Dec. 23 last year.

The use of toxic humidifier sterilizers killed dozens of people and resulted in over 5,000 damage reports.

The Sewol ferry sank on April 16, 2014, in waters off the country’s southwestern coast, claiming the lives of 304 people, mostly teenagers on a field trip.

By Kim So-hyun (