PSPD in English Sewol Ferry Tragedy 2014-05-19   2780

[Statement] Position of Civil Society on President Park’s Statement on the Sewol Ferry Incident

Position of Civil Society on President Park’s Statement on the Sewol Ferry Incident


(19 May 2014, Seoul) President Park Geun-hye released a statement to the nation this morning, the 34th day of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy. The statement came out a month later only with strict control and without rapid rescue was featured by the rapid exit strategy without thorough diagnosis or reflection. The tragedy is still ongoing. There are families in Paengmok Port, Jindo who have been desperately waiting for who have not come back yet. However, no promise for rapid rescue was provided to the families waiting for 18 missing people with impatience. The president showed no willingness to search for the last person by encouraging coast guard.


President Park mentioned “The buck stops here” but nothing in the statement specifically mentioned responsibilities of the president and the Blue House. She pointed out the problems in the Korea Coast Guard, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and Ministry of Safety and Public Administration one by one but kept silent on the indifference, irresponsibility and incapability of the president herself and the presidential office. The president mentioned “Something wrong with the control tower”. Still, the president and the office were out of the troubled control tower. The presidential statement held no self-reflection and apology without basic requirement for the statement to the nation.


President Park did neither evaluate nor reflect reckless deregulation policies, another structural cause of this calamity. The core policies of the Park administration like ‘3-year plan on the economic innovation’ and ‘Reshuffling public offices’, mentioned with strong implementation in today’s statement, were riddled with various regulations. The former set up the quota system of privatizing the public sector, meaning that an existing regulation should be abolished to put another one. She strongly requested relaxing the regulation for the development in the land and maritime industries in the activity report. The public concern should be raised to cope with risks everywhere in our society. In addition, the rights of workers in every field should be secured to handle risks and keep the safety. To this end, Park should have shown her willingness to curb the expansion of non-regular, part-time labor in the public sector.


The president listed measures like breaking up the coast guard, new establishment of the Ministry of National Safety and rolling back the frontiers of the Ministry of Safety and Public Administration, employment limitation on the retired public officials and beefing up the request prohibition and strengthening liabilities for compensation for pursuing greedy acts putting the public in danger. Some anti-corruption alternatives have been publicly discussed in the society. However, the measures like the dissolution of the coast guard or newly opening the ministry should not be the ones immediately and unilaterally declared by the president. Rather, the direct and structural causes should be honestly reviewed and discussed in the process of the review at the national level. This is against the resolution in the last cabinet meeting declaring no more ‘quick fix’.


President Park Geun-hye said she would accept the special act on compensating for victims, special act on the fact-finding committee and introducing the special prosecutor. It was positive to mention the establishment of the special act on the fact-finding for partly accepting claims from the bereaved families. However, it is doubtful whether recurrence prevention policies just followed what the president tediously discoursed or the policies should be prepared under the presence of the public and the family members through the public fact-finding organization co-existed after the presidential announcement that ‘the captain, some crews and maritime company’ held the direct responsibility for the tragedy. She should have proposed specific plans on how to proceed the fact-finding activities on the public basis instead of lengthy shoddy measures if the president really felt the responsibility and were willing to follow her own declaration on not providing ‘stopgap measures’. The statement itself showed her self-righteousness and insufficient reflection in that the president looked like a judge in discovering the truth and preparing countermeasures.


Even worse, the announcement did not touch upon the press even though doubts spread out that the presidential office intervened the mediamorphosis making the victim families cry after the calamity. Then, she mentioned nothing about that the president herself, government and ruling party officials speaking bluntly and hurting deeply the victims and their left families. Even more, the statement did not cover anything about the behavior of the prosecutor and police who caught 220 people requesting fact-finding missions and punishing person in charge of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy in May 17 and 18 and declared strong law enforcement. This attitude was far away from the responsibility. Rather, it just looked like that the government would keep free public discussions and criticism down through firm stances.


The authorities overloaded to the Park administration caused this calamity. However, there was no one neither the president nor the government to answer for this tragedy. She would like to cover up the faults and exit to the local election on June 4 through this statement but the public is not the pushover. That is because we will take all the agonies from the tragedy together. Here, the roundtable meeting to be held in May 22 collects the opinion from all walks of life and specifically states what and how President Park Geun-hye takes responsibility. 


For more information or media inquiry, please contact People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (Ms. Gayoon Baek,, +82 (0)2 723 5051).


Korean Statement >> 세월호 대통령 담화에 대한 각계 원탁회의 입장


(Translated by Giseok Ahn, Volunteer)

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