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Anniversary of Sewol ferry disaster in the midst of violence and conflict

Anniversary of Sewol ferry disaster in the midst of violence and conflict

Posted April. 13, 2015 07:11,   


Some 2,500 people from the Public Committee for Sewol Ferry Disaster and bereaved families staged a protest under the title of "All-out Efforts to Abolish the Enforcement Decree of the Sewol Special Act’ in the Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on Saturday. The protesters took to the adjacent road and staged a demonstration for five hours, attempting to march to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. The protest involved violence over the police and paralyzed the traffic around the square.

Even though it is nearing the first anniversary of the Sewol ferry disaster that claimed lives of 304 people on April 16 last year, conflict and confrontation still remain over contents of the enforcement decree or ways of compensation. All the stakeholders related to the sunken ferry, including the captain Lee Joon-seok and other crew members, the Sewol’s operator Cheonghaejin Marine, incapable maritime police, and the officialdom and politics that turned a blind eye on structural irregularity and corruption, cannot be free from the responsibility of such a deadly disaster. After long discussions and deliberations, the National Assembly decided to pass the Sewol Special Act to launch an investigation to make "safe Korea." However, it is likely that the Special Investigation Committee may not be started even on Thursday, the first anniversary of the Sewol disaster, due to conflict between the government and bereaved families over the enforcement decree.

The Public Committee for Sewol Ferry Disaster and the Bereaved Family’s Committee claimed that the government has reduced the number of investigation committee members from 125 in the mother law to 90 in the enforcement decree, and unilaterally announced the scope of compensation and reward without consensus with the bereaved families. It is inappropriate for the government to take an action that may mislead others over implementation of the special act. Even so, if there is any problem in the enforcement decree, bereaved family members can take proper procedures and demand revision of the decree. Especially at this point that the government decided to actively review raising the sunken ferry, it is too excessive to march to Cheong Wa Dae and ask for the president’s pledge to hoist the ferry and the detailed timelines.

On the first anniversary of the deadly ferry disaster, not only bereaved families but also the public must pay respects to the souls of the victims and have thorough self-reflection on how much our society has been changed to make a safe nation. The bereaved families need to draw a line from the group that tries to make a political strife and reproduce conflicts out of the tragedy. The government also needs to examine whether the safety measures and nation-wide innovative actions President Park Geun-hye ordered last year are well-implemented in the field and provide the results of examination to the public.