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Tug of War Concerning Kim’s Treatment

Posted June. 28, 2004 23:05,   


What will be the range of the compensation and honorary treatment that the government can offer to a victim of terror who dies overseas? As the negotiation between Kim Sun-il’s bereaved family and the government continues to make poor progress, the compensation range and the funeral procedure have become issues beyond mere curiosity.

--Compensation negotiations making slow progress

The bereaved family is requesting a suitable level of compensation along with a burial in the National Cemetery since the government failed to do its duty to protect its citizen.

But, the government is showing disapproval of their requests.

The related government offices including the Ministry of Administration and Autonomy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had a working-level talk on Monday to discuss the compensation for Kim’s family.

A high-ranking official said, “We concluded that the government does not have a ‘legal’ responsibility for Kim’s death.” Thus, the government will not pay compensation to the family unless it is clearly proven by the Board of Audit and Inspection that the government made mistakes.

Still, considering the nationwide sentiment and the family’s sorrow, the government will negotiate compensation and the funeral procedure with the family on behalf of Gana Trading Co., which Kim worked for. There is, however, a problem even with this. A letter of attorney is needed to negotiate compensation issues in place of Gana Trading. If the government provides compensation without the letter, it will lose the right to indemnity.

This is the reason the government has urged, through the Foreign Ministry, that Kim Cheon-ho, president of Gana Trading Co,, return to Korea.

Another official said, “In cases of disastrous deaths such as the incident of Ohmu Electric employees and the conflagration in the Daegu subway, either a related company or a local self-governing body that received a letter of attorney negotiated with bereaved families regarding compensation issues. Kim’s case is unprecedented.”

He continued, saying, “It is known that Kim’s family is asking for compensation of 300,000,000 to 600,000,000 won. We will support them as much as possible, if practical.”

The government is also considering paying an additional bonus to comfort the family. However, it is laboring to find a legal base or procedure to provide such a bonus since there is no existing precedent for it.

--Burial in the National Cemetery

According to the National Cemetery Rules, the persons who may be buried in the National Cemetery are soldiers on service or summoned, civilians attached to the military, local defense forces or police officers who died in the line of duty. Yet, it is possible to be buried in the National Cemetery if the President designates it after receiving a request from the defense minister and cabinet council deliberation, if the person died with recognized distinguished service.

However, the Defense Ministry says it is hard to consider that Kim’s death occurred while trying to protect the nation’s life and assets.

In particular, Chon Jae-kyu who died on the Sejong Base in the South Pole due to a shipwreck, and the two employees of Ohmu Electric who were killed in a gunfight in Iraq, were not buried in the National Cemetery.

Jae-Myoung Lee Dong-Bin Seok egija@donga.com mobidic@donga.com