Posted November. 20, 2015 09:26,
Controversies are intensifying over a plan by a special fact-finding committee on the fatal sinking in April 2014 of ferry Sewol to probe how the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae responded to the disaster on the day of the tragic accident. The ruling Saenuri Party regards the plan, which will be discussed at the committee`s plenary session next Monday, as intended to investigate President Park`s "missing seven hours" on the day of the Sewol`s sinking. The party`s floor leader Won Yoo-chul criticized the plan, claiming that the planned probe into the president would violate the committee`s political neutrality. However, the investigation committee said that the president`s whereabouts were not important but that there would be "no sanctuary" in the probe into why rescue efforts were delayed on the day of the accident.
Lee Heon, the committee`s vice chairman appointed on Saenuri`s recommendation, claimed Thursday that the panel, which was funded by taxpayers` money, had been "occupied by particular forces." His predecessor stepped down in July, also arguing that the committee`s members showed no sincerity in finding the truth while complaining about the panel`s organizational structure and budget. Although the committee members started actual work in August but retroactively received salaries from January, when a special law on Sewol investigation took effect.
The 17-member committee consists of 10 representing the opposition party, the victims` bereaved families and the Korean Bar Association and another seven recommended by the ruling party and the Supreme Court. If the plan to investigate the president is put to a vote, the ruling party cannot stop the probe. However, the issue was concluded in last year`s parliamentary investigation. Cheong Wa Dae said that the president had 17 briefings and chaired seven meetings on the sinking between 10:00 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. on April 16, 2014, before visiting the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, the control tower for the accident. The prosecution`s investigation also produced a scientific conclusion on where the president was during the seven hours. If it is true that the committee plans to re-investigate the issue, it must be viewed as having impure political motivation.
The committee has one year for its activities and can extend the period just once for up to six months. The government interprets the total period as being from January 1, 2015 until June 30, 2016. However, the committee and the opposition party call for further extension, suggesting their intention to politicize the Sewol issue until the next presidential election. If the committee continues its current behavior, it will end up losing the public`s trust in any conclusion it presents. The committee should concentrate on finding out what was the essential cause of the fatal accident.