Sewol Commission lodges suits against lawmaker and journalist

Posted on : 2016-06-28 17:44 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Investigative body currently resisting government’s plan to cut its budget by the end of this month
A family member of one student who died in the Sewol ferry sinking watches the ongoing efforts to raise the ferry
A family member of one student who died in the Sewol ferry sinking watches the ongoing efforts to raise the ferry

The Special Sewol Investigative Commission has decided to lodge suits with the prosecutors about a Saenuri Party lawmaker in the National Assembly and a former high-ranking executive at a broadcasting studio. The commission has also confirmed that some of the iron bars on the overloaded Sewol Ferry were bound for the naval base in Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island.

On June 27, the Sewol Commission held a meeting for all members at its office in Seoul at which it voted to accuse a current Saenuri Party lawmaker identified by the letter K and a journalist identified by the letter N of violating the Broadcasting Act and to ask the prosecutors to investigate the two. Sources say that the lawmaker is a close associate of South Korean President Park Geun-hye and that the journalist is a former senior executive for a broadcasting company.

This is the first time that the Sewol Commission has lodged a complaint against someone using evidence that turned up during its own investigation.

The Sewol Commission explained that it had decided to lodge a complaint against the lawmaker and journalist after finding that they had violated Article 4, Clause 2, of the Broadcasting Act, which states that “no one shall regulate or interfere with the broadcast programming unless as prescribed by this Act or other Acts.”

During the process of planning broadcasts immediately after the Sewol sinking, the executive in question reportedly gave instructions not to criticize the coast guard, while the lawmaker is reportedly accused of having passed these instructions along to the executive and of having put pressure on him.

 in the waters off of Jindo
in the waters off of Jindo

The motion to lodge a complaint against these two individuals was carried out with few objections, with nine of the attending members in favor and one opposed.

The Sewol Commission also announced that it had confirmed that the Sewol was carrying 2,215 tons of cargo on the day of the accident, which was 1,228 tons above the legal limit of 987 tons.

In addition, while investigators with the police and prosecutors had said that the Sewol was carrying 286 tons of iron bars, the Commission learned that there had actually been 410 tons of iron bars onboard, meaning that 124 tons had been omitted by the previous investigation.

According to a document that the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries submitted to the National Assembly on Monday, 278 tons of materials had been bound for the naval base on Jeju Island.

The Sewol Commission emphasized the need to reassess the timing and causes of the sinking by recalculating the ship’s stability based on the results of its investigation into the cargo overload.

With the Sewol Commission releasing these new findings and lodging its first complaints against people connected with the accident, the debate about the premature conclusion of the commission’s activity is expected to intensify.

During a meeting with Sewol Commission Chair Lee Seok-tae at the National Assembly on Monday, Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the Minjoo Party of Korea, repeatedly expressed his opposition to the government’s plan.

“The government means for the Sewol Commission to wrap up its activity at the end of this month, but that is a far cry from the National Assembly’s intent when it framed the law. If that is the government’s intention, the Minjoo Party of Korea will have no choice but to resist it. This is an issue on which we cannot back down,” Woo said.

Next month, the government is planning to reduce the Sewol Commission’s staff by 20%. On July 1, 12 of the 29 public servants who are currently assigned to the Sewol Commission will return to their original ministries.

By Kim Mi-young, staff reporter

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