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Forces using Sewol tragedy to instigate anti-government protests

Forces using Sewol tragedy to instigate anti-government protests

Posted April. 23, 2014 05:23,   


In the wake of the sinking of the ferry Sewol, Shin Sang-cheol, who suggested the theory that the Cheonan was stranded after hitting an object in 2010, has strongly argued this time, “The authorities are not saving people who went missing after the Sewol’s sinking intentionally, rather than failing to save them.” Shin, former head of a left-leaning online media, made the remarks in his speech at a rally, saying, “We cannot understand the reason that the authorities cannot save a survivor even 24 hours after the sinking of the vessel.” While participating at a civilian and military joint investigation taskforce team on the recommendation of the opposition party, he claimed, “The cause of the Cheonan’s sinking was its stranding, and the U.S. military was involved,” which made him face a defamation trial.

Groundless rumors are also spreading on the Internet and SNS channels that the government is intentionally delaying the recovery of bodies and rescue of victims at the Sewol. This constitutes defamation of rescue workers who risk their own lives to save the missing people and find bodies of the victims without taking sufficient rest for the seventh day at the site of the devastating ferry disaster, and a malicious theory of conspiracy. Pro-North Korea media outlets, including the leftist publication “Jajuminbo," are beefing up propaganda to instigate the public, saying, “The Sewol sank because it hit a U.S. submarine,” just as it claimed following the Cheonan’s sinking.

Even “fakes" who seek to gain something by exploiting family members of the missing people have emerged. Song Jeong-geun, who gave media interviews and moderated events acting as if he was the representative of the parents’ association at Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, was a preliminary candidate for a Gyeonggi Provincial Council member for the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy and a would-be politician, and proved to be neither a parent nor a family member of a missing person. Some watchers specifically testified that external forces who have nothing to do with the victims instigated families to seek a protest visit to the presidential office. It was also a misguided act that ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Kwon Eun-hee and some netizens uploaded groundless news on SNS channels that “A woman who participated in a protest rally against the construction of power transmission towers in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, also behaved as if she was a family member of a missing person in the sinking.”

Police sought an arrest warrant on Tuesday for Hong Ga-hye, who was interviewed by the MBN general programming TV channel to circulate false rumors that “the Korea Coast Guard is blocking civilian divers from conducting rescue mission.” In order for the public not to be swayed by forces who seek to exploit the national tragedy to instigate anti-government protests and social conflict, the media has an important role to play as well. To completely keep groundless rumors at bay, the government should communicate key facts to the public accurately and promptly, while the media is also obliged to carry out news gathering and reports in an accurate and self-regulated manner.