Park rejects Sewol families’ demands

September 16, 2014
President Park Geun-hye visited a southern port Paengmok of Jindo  Island Sunday, where the ferry victims have been camping out , awaiting news of the fate of their loved ones. / Yonhap

This photo was taken when President Park Geun-hye visited a southern port Paengmok of Jindo Island where the families of ferry victims camped out, awaiting news of the fate of their loved ones. (Yonhap)

By Kang Seung-woo

President Park Geun-hye rejected Tuesday the demand by families of the victims of the Sewol tragedy for a special investigative committee to be given extra-judicial authority.

The victims’ families have been pressing the President to allow an independent fact-finding body to have the right to investigate and indict those responsible for the sinking that claimed more than 300 lives, most of them high school students. The ruling Saenuri Party opposes the idea, describing it “against the law and unacceptable.”

“The demand can shake the foundations of the separation of power and the judicial system and it is not an issue that I can deal with,” Park said during a Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae.

She added that should basic rules be broken, only ceaseless hostility and conflict would prevail.

Park later met with Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung and floor leader Lee Wan-koo to discuss pending issues such as the opening of the National Assembly..

Her remarks came as deadlock over the ferry sinking committee has prevented the Assembly from passing a set of bills intended to revive the nation’s sluggish economy and lift regulations that could boost the economy and create jobs. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) has vowed to boycott the passage of all other bills until the ferry bill is endorsed.

Along with the extra-constitutional authority, who should choose members of a committee to select a special prosecutor is at the center of the protracted dispute.

Last month, floor leaders of the rival parties agreed that the Saenuri Party must get approval for its pick of two people for a seven-member panel that would appoint candidates for an independent prosecutor, but the bereaved families rejected this, insisting that the ruling party should not be allowed to select any members.

Park said that there was no more room for the Saenuri Party to back off in a deal.

“The agreement is the last resort that the ruling side can use in the efforts to dig into the causes of the accident,” she said.

“After meeting with the victims’ families in Jindo, I have tried to ease their difficulties, but the current calls regarding the Sewol bill are missing the point.”

The President added that the special bill should not be politically exploited, saying, “Agreements between floor leaders were reversed twice and it resulted in a political standoff at the National Assembly. The bill should reflect what the families want.”

Meanwhile, Park also criticized insulting remarks against her, saying they were “hurting the national dignity.”

Last week, Rep. Sul Hoon of the NPAD said last week that he thinks “it is a lie” that Park had a romance, referring to allegations by a Japanese newspaper that she had a secret meeting with an unidentified person at an undisclosed location on the day of the deadly ferry sinking.

“Offensive remarks regarding the president representing the people are going too far,” she said.

“They can negatively affect diplomatic ties as well as disrespect the people.”

Bae Jong-chan, chief director at political pollster Research and Research, said, “Park made such strong remarks amid growing public sentiment in favor of improving the livelihoods for the people.”

He added that if the president is continuously entangled in the Sewol issue, more rumors surrounding her will be produced and her remarks were aimed at blocking rumor diffusion.

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