The prosecution is pressing ahead with an investigation into the cases of negligence of duty and destruction of evidence regarding the tragic crowd crush of Itaewon.
Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office carried out a search and seizure Tuesday morning, sending prosecutors and investigators to 10 spots including the Korean National Police Agency, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, and Seoul Yongsan Police Station. Since the case on the Itaewon tragedy was remitted to the special investigation headquarters under the Korean National Police Agency, this marks the first time that the prosecution has carried out a search and confiscation into the case in question.
The prosecution also probed into the Seoul Nambu Detention Center where the major suspects are behind bars. Reportedly, they’ve secured additional evidence to back up the allegations of suspects involved in the tragic crush including former chief of Seoul Yongsan Police Station Lee Im-jae and chief of Yongsan District Office Park Hee-hyeong, who have been arrested on charges of professional negligence resulting in death. “The search and seizure are aimed at enhancing the evidence on the allegations of major suspects,” said an official at the prosecution. “But we’ve yet to verify additional allegations.”
Keen attention is being paid to whether the compulsory investigations are ultimately designed to hold accountable those high up in the ranks. As to Minister Lee Sang-min of the Ministry of the Interior and Safety and Commissioner Yoon Hee-geun of the National Police Agency, the investigation headquarters are planning to close their case without further probing, citing the difficulties in proving criminal liabilities. Some denounced this decision, saying the probes are forcing front-line officials to bear the brunt of responsibility.
The special committee of the National Assembly for the parliamentary inspection into the Itaewon crush, which has extended its period, agreed to hold the third hearing on Thursday afternoon at 2 pm. With the special committee slated to expire on Jan. 17, the ruling and opposition parties are planning to hold their last session either on Jan. 16 or 17 to adopt the inspection report.
Holding a hearing at the National Assembly, the special committee shared a discussion on the cause of the tragic accident and prevention measures.
Kang Jeong-gu, former senior administrator at the National Center for Crisis Management, argued that a post for secretary in charge of disaster management should be instituted under the presidential office. Democratic Party lawmaker Shin Hyeon-young’s controversial boarding of the “Doctor Car” was rekindled again. “Even doctors need to serve as volunteers if they are not officially mobilized in advance,” said Prof. Lee Gyeong-won of Yonsei Yongin Severance Hospital.
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