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Danwon teacher to be honored as 'police killed in duty'

Posted April. 24, 2017 07:32,   

Updated April. 24, 2017 07:35

The court recently ruled in favor of honoring a teacher who was killed while helping his students evacuate from Sewol Ferry as “solider or police killed in duty,” instead of “public official killed in duty.”

Judge So Byeong-jin at the Incheon District Court decided Sunday in favor of the plaintiff, the wife of the then 32-year-old Lee who was killed during the Sewol Ferry crisis. The wife had filed a suit against the chief of the Ministry of Patriots & Veterans Affairs Incheon Regional Office who refused to register her husband as a person of national merit (solider or police killed in duty). Judge So ruled Sunday that Mr. Lee can be deemed as a police killed in duty, as his deeds of sacrificing his life to rescue students inside the sinking Sewol Ferry fall into the category of soldiers, policemen, or firefighters who take risky jobs at specific disasters.

When Sewol Ferry sank on April 16, 2014, Mr. Lee was inside the cabin on the 4th floor. When the seawaters flooded in, he evacuated the students towards the exit, and distributed life vests to some 10 students who were hanging on the deck banisters. He was found dead on May 5 after failing to escape while trying to rescue more students inside the cabin.

Mr. Lee’s wife applied a registration as a person of national merit to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Incheon Regional Office in June 2014, and filed a petition to register herself as the bereaved of the police killed in duty. Still, the chief of the office refused on reasons that Mr. Lee should be considered as a public official killed in duty. Mrs. Lee protested against the decision, and filed for an administrative litigation as her request for administrative trial was rejected by the Central Administrative Appeals Commission in October 2015.

The Suwon District Court also announced the same judgement on a similar lawsuit, which the four bereaved, including the family of Ms. Choi Hye-jeong who sacrificed her life to save students, filed against the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs in March. According to the law on honoring and supporting person of national merit, most of the bodies are buried at the Seoul National Cemetery when there are no exceptional cases. However, public officials killed in duty should meet additional requirements under the National Cemetery Law in order to be buried at the Seoul National Cemetery. In addition, the bereaved of the police killed in duty receives higher level of treatment and support with additional compensation.

Jun-Ho Cha run-juno@donga.com