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National Assembly passes bills related to April ferry disaster

November 7, 2014
The so-called special Sewol law, named after the 6,825-ton ferry that sank off the country's southwest coast on April 16, was passed on Friday. (Yonhap)

The so-called special Sewol law, named after the 6,825-ton ferry that sank off the country’s southwest coast on April 16, was passed on Friday. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The National Assembly on Friday passed a package of bills aimed at preventing a disaster similar to April’s ferry sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Last week, the ruling and main opposition parties reached a compromise on the bills after a months long standoff that put nearly all other parliamentary activity on hold.

The ferry disaster has been a major political issue in South Korea as critics argue that the government’s poor initial response to the tragedy contributed to the high death toll.

One bill calls for an independent investigation into the cause of the disaster through the appointment of an independent counsel and a fact-finding team.

The so-called special Sewol law, named after the 6,825-ton ferry that sank off the country’s southwest coast on April 16, was at the center of the months-long controversy as family members of the victims demanded their participation in the selection of the independent counsel.

Also passed was a bill calling for the dismantlement of the Coast Guard and the National Emergency Management Agency. Both organizations will be placed under a new government ministry to be charged with overseeing public safety.

The final bill of the package calls for measures to swiftly retrieve the wealth of those found to be responsible for people’s deaths.

The bill was proposed as current laws made it impossible to retrieve the illegally accumulated wealth of the ferry’s late owner, Yoo Byung-eun, because some of it had been given to his family members.

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