After being shut down by Korean President Park Geun-hye, Sewol ferry disaster investigative commission seeking ways to continue work

After being shut down by Korean President Park Geun-hye, Sewol ferry disaster investigative commission seeking ways to continue work
Oct.6,2016 17:04 KSTModified on : Oct.6,2016 17:04 KST

Sewol Special Investigative Commission chairperson Lee Seok-tae speaks before the start of a closed-door meeting at the Commission‘s office in central Seoul, Oct. 4. (by Park Jong-shik, staff photographer)
Commission planning to examine the situation with National Assembly discussions on special Sewol legislation
The Special Sewol Investigative Commission moved on Oct. 5 to take down tents where it had been holding a relay hunger strike in central Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square calling for a guarantee on its activities and amendment of the special Sewol Law.
The decision, which came 71 days after the strike began on July 27, was made after the commission’s official investigative activities were forcibly shut down by the South Korean government. Earlier that morning, the commission told reporters about its plans for continued activities going ahead.
The commission’s plan now is to commit its energies to enacting and amending special Sewol legislation to allow for the formation of a second special commission. Its goal is to have the legislation go before the National Assembly Standing Committee within the month of October.
“We will continue to maintain a consultative group with lawmakers who agree on ongoing investigation activities,” said commission chairperson Lee Seok-tae.
Lee also said the commission’s plans to “examine the situation with National Assembly discussions on enacting and amending special Sewol legislation.”
Standing committee member Kwon Yeong-bin, who heads the investigative subcommittee, said, “Whether the special law is amended or [a new one is] enacted, the new legislation needs safeguards to prevent the government from compromising the original law by using enforcement decrees or its budget authority.”
“Even if [the commission isn’t given] investigation and indictment authority, it needs to at least be guaranteed authority to request search and seizure warrants when parties refuse to submit documents and to investigate obstructions of investigative activity,” Kwon argued.
The commission is also considering joint activities with a “special citizen commission” or “citizen investigation group,” which family members of the Sewol victims and civil society are currently discussing forming.
“It appears that details on the special citizen commission and citizen investigation group will be coming out within the month,” said standing committee member Park Jong-woon, who heads the commission’s safe society subcommittee.
“It’s looking like the civilian investigation may proceed under a ‘two-top’ system with the special Sewol commission [until a second special commission is formed],” Park predicted.
Investigators with the special commission are now planning to organize meetings for investigative activities.
“Together with the public and the family members, we plan to take firmer strides toward an investigation of the Sewol tragedy as a special commission in a new sense and with a different face from today,” Lee pledged.
By Ahn Young-chun, staff reporter