Victim'S families called for fresh prosecutorial investigation
Bereaved families of the victims of the "Sewol" disaster on April 15 called for a fresh prosecutorial investigation into the event and punishment for those accountable, a day before the fifth anniversary of the disaster. Five years after the ferry sank in waters off the southern coast on Apr 16, 2014, killing 304 people most of whom were high school students on a field trip the victim's families said justice has not yet been served because of attempted cover-ups. Holding accountable those who have tried to obscure the truth behind the incident including former President Park Geun-hye and then Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is now main opposition Liberty Korea Party's chairman is the only way to make Korean society safer and allow it to move on, they said at a press conference at Gwanghwamun Square. "What we want in terms of finding the truth is not much. We demand punishment for criminals and murderers who asked the victims to stay still (aboard the sinking ship) and who did not order an evacuation", said Jang Hoon, the father of deceased student Jang Joon-hyung. The first step is to establish a unified special investigation team under the prosecution with the power to investigate and file charges, they added, as ongoing cases related to the Sewol sinking are handled separately across several local and military courts. By creating a unified body, the families believe the probe and follow-up process indictments and court proceedings will be quicker and more responsive. The families released a list of 17 names of people they accuse of being responsible for disrupting rescue operations and efforts to determine the cause of the Sewol tragedy. They compiled the list based on investigation results by the prosecution and special investigation committee into the maritime disaster and the ferry, Jang said, amid slow progress in bringing justice to those they believe should be punished. On the list are officials from the Coast Guard, presidential office, National Intelligence Service, Defence Security Command, Oceans Ministry and Justice Ministry. The names include then-Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon, then-Coast Guard chief Kim Suk-Kyun, then Presidential Secretary for national security Kim Jang-soo and then National Intelligence Service chief Nam Jae-joon. The families accused them of abuses of power and manslaughter, the statutes of limitations of which are five years and seven years, respectively. They are planning to file complaints against them by around June, according to Jang. On April 15, the prosecution sent two former high-ranking officials from the Defence Security Command and two former presidential officials to the court on charges of abuse of power. They are accused of being involved in tapping the families of the Sewol victims and conducting illegal smear campaign online. "What we want to know the most is why the victims were not rescued when there was enough time and why they were not ordered to abandon the ship. We want to know whether it was because the government was just incompetent or there were other reasons", said Park Rae-gun, co-head of an association of civic groups supporting the victim's families. A petition on the presidential office?s website calling for a fresh investigation into the Sewol ferry disaster had garnered more than 127,000 signatures until the afternoon. With previous committees aimed at finding the cause of the "Sewol" tragedy bearing little fruit, the Special Commission on Social Disaster Investigation is now conducting an inspection into what went wrong in the rescue. The commission said that footage of the "Sewol" that prosecutors had secured and which the Navy claimed it had retrieved may be different, raising suspicions of possible manipulation of the footage, at a press briefing in March. As the commission has no authority to investigate those involved and file charges against them, it plans to refer the case to the prosecution, asking it to open an official probe into the allegations. In the last few days, Koreans have been flocking to the joint memorial altar in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, home to 261 student and teacher victims of the ferry sinking, to pay tribute to the victims. The island Jindo, which is near the site of the accident, and the port of Mokpo, where the ferry remains on a dry dock, in South Jeolla Province, were also busy with mourners. Photo of the ferry in Mokpo on April 13, 2019: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/PYH20190414049800315?section=image/general
Last search of wreck completed
What will effectively be the last search of the hull has finished, the local recovery headquarters of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries follow-up measure implementation team for the "Sewol" declared on Oct. 19, intending to continue through late October finishing up with the clearing of obstacles such as mud taken from the hull. Despite the hull’s search being completed, five victims of the sinking remained undiscovered: male Danwon High School students Nam Hyeon-cheol and Park Yeong-in, teacher Yang Seung-jin, and Kwon Jae-geun and his son Hyeok-gyu. The headquarters previously resumed their search for the missing five passengers after raising the "Sewol" upright in May and completing security measures for workers on June 25. The search focused on the roughly 10 percent of the hull that could not be searched while the vessel was lying with one side against the ground. The headquarters’ examination over this period include deck storage at the vessel’s bow, the compartment holding the anchor chain, and the chimney used to discharge exhaust gas from the engine. The headquarters recovered one human tooth bone on Aug. 31, but DNA testing by the National Forensic Service confirmed it to belong to one of the previously recovered victims. The search was initially scheduled to end on Aug 21, but ended up extended until Oct 19 due to unforeseen broadening of the effort’s scope and demands from the family members of the as-yet unrecovered passengers. The main search of the "Sewol"’s hull began in April 2017 after the ferry was raised and mounted at Mokpo New Port. The remains of four of nine unrecovered passengers were found over the course of the three subsequent searches. Although the search has now bewen finished, the "Sewol"’s hull is to be left in its position at Mokpo New Port for the time period to allow the second special Sewol commission to examine the hull.
State panel to be wrapped up
A state panel that has investigated the "Sewol" sinking will wrap up its effort to determine the exact cause of the accident which killed more than 300 passengers. Launched in July l2017, the eight-member panel will close its official operations on Aug 6 and hold a press conference to explain its activities over the past 13 months. The fact-finding body has played a key role in handling various issues like searching for missing bodies after the salvage effort to refloat the ill-fated 6,800 ton-ship in April last year was completed. It has looked inside the hull and conducted a number of simulations to find out what made the ship sink. But the panel failed to arrive at a clear conclusion as its members were split over the cause of the accident. Some argue that the ferry capsized due to a sudden turn and overloading, while others say the ship was struck by an unidentified object. Later on, a separate special panel will take over responsibility and continue fact-finding operations. After the ship was raised from the water, the remains of five missing passengers were found on board. Report with photo: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2018/08/05/0302000000AEN20180805003800320.htmlUpload News