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Forces seeking to exploit Sewol tragedy for political instigation

Forces seeking to exploit Sewol tragedy for political instigation

Posted May. 10, 2014 06:55,   


A massive candlelight vigil, hosted by the “Roundtable meeting of citizens’ candlelight vigil to protest Sewol tragedy,” took place at Cheonggye Plaza in central Seoul on Friday evening. The ostensible purpose of the rally was to mourn victims of the disaster and to urge the government to promptly search the missing people, and identify the truth behind the tragedy. In reality, however, most of speeches delivered at the gathering were meant to use the accident as kindling for anti-government struggles. The organizer of the candlelight vigil is spearheaded by the Seoul chapter of the Unified Progressive Party, against which appeals for dismissal were filed with the Constitutional Court, and the Seoul Progressive Alliance that was formed recently by nine organizations, including the South Korean headquarters of the Democratic Alliance for Reunification of the Fatherland,” which had been labeled a pro-North Korean organization by the Supreme Court. It is fair to say that it is the very group that effectively masterminded a struggle to deny the identity of the Republic of Korea.

On Thursday, there were protest rallies hosted by 13 civic groups, including the National Parents’ Association for Genuine Education and the Missionary for the Urban Poor at Methodist Theological University in Seoul, the Gwangju Progressive alliance in Gwangju, and the Incheon Social Welfare Alliance in Incheon. A number of similar rallies are scheduled to take place across the nation over this weekend as well. Members of online community called, “Moms’ Yellow Handkerchief,” visited the official memorial center for the Sewol victims in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province on Monday, and staged a march there, holding banners reading, “Park Geun-hye should take responsibility.” A co-chair of the organization, identified by her last name, Jeong, who said, “If the president is problematic, she should be forced out,” is a member of the Danwon-gu district chapter of the Unified Progressive Party. Given this, the gathering can hardly be regarded as a rally purely meant to pay condolences.

On online communities, certain intellectuals and left-leaning progressive civic groups are openly staging a campaign to oust the administration. Moon Seong-geun, who served as chairman of the now-defunct Democratic Party, uploaded a Twitter post, reading “Ruling Style ‘Park Chung-hee 2.0’ has gone bankrupt.” On social network service, a newspaper op-ed piece demanding “resignation of President Park Geun-hye” contributed by Kim Yong-ok, an emeritus professor of Hanshin University, is being circulated together with an instigative slogan, “Take to the street.” On the portal Daum’s Agora forum page, even a petition campaign demanding Park’s resignation is being staged.

The Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union recently uploaded on its official website a video comparing Danwon High School students who died in the Sewol accident to Kim Joo-yeol and Park Jong-cheol, who died while staging democracy movement during authoritarian governments in 1970s and 1987, respectively. The video received a flurry of criticism saying that “How the massive tragic accident can be the same as oppression by dictatorial governments,” but the union declined to remove the video, saying, “The argument holding the incumbent government responsible is a generalized public sentiment that is being upheld in other segments of society as well.” The union urges its members to join candlelight vigils by noting on the website that “Union members should step up to take action.” They apparently want to revive the candlelight vigil campaigns from 2008, which continued for more than three months to cause chaos by describing safe American beef as meat causing Mad Cow Disease.

It is true that the Sewol accident became an unimaginably massive disaster because people in the government sector, including the Korea Coast Guard, failed to properly fulfill their responsibility. However, prosecutorial probe is underway, and due legal actions are in store. Under this circumstance, it is not right to go beyond rationally criticizing the government, instigate anti-government struggles, and even to demand resignation of the president. This is truly a far cry from purely motivated action aimed at ensuring the best interest of victims and their bereaved families and establishing a safe community in Korea.