NPAD calls for special investigation into sinking

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NPAD calls for special investigation into sinking

On the back of rising public criticism against the government’s handling of the Sewol ferry accident, the major opposition demanded that the ruling Saenuri Party cooperate to hold a special parliamentary probe into the April 16 sinking.

At a party leadership meeting yesterday, Ahn Cheol-soo, a co-leader of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), called on the rival Saenuri to collaborate in launching a special investigation to determine the cause of South Korea’s worst maritime disaster.

“The time has come [for us] to lay bare the truth [behind the sinking] as requested by the relatives of the victims,” the former presidential hopeful said. He also proposed that the Saenuri Party conduct all relevant parliamentary committees this month in a bipartisan manner to look into the factors that contributed to the accident.

Ahn went further to demand the ruling party jointly form a special parliamentary committee solely dedicated to fixing long-held malpractices in the shipping industry.

The opposition’s demand for a thorough parliamentary investigation came amid President Park Geun-hye’s declining approval ratings - largely due to what the public perceives as the government’s slow and inept response to the disaster, particularly in the initial stages.

However, the Saenuri has yet to accept the NPAD’s demands. Its leadership has repeatedly stated that concluding search efforts and punishing those found accountable must precede talks over special inquiries.

But while the Saenuri’s top members have opposed NPAD demands, Kim Moo-sung, a political heavyweight who is considered a potential presidential candidate from the ruling party, sided with the opposition before reporters yesterday at the National Assembly, which could hint at internal discord. “We must proceed with the parliamentary probe,” Kim said, adding other Saenuri lawmakers agreed with him.

The incumbent government’s declining popularity, as well as increasingly unfavorable public sentiments in its handling of the crisis, has become a headache for the ruling Saenuri, one for which it does not seem to have a quick remedy.

Yesterday, grieving relatives of the young ferry victims staged a silent protest for the fifth consecutive day just outside the entrance to a mass mourning altar in Ansan, Gyeonggi.

Wearing white face masks, seven people held placards urging a thorough investigation into the cause of the sinking.

“For our children who perished for no reason in the cold sea, one last thing we must do for them is to lay bare the truth,” one sign read.

Seventeen kilometers (11 miles) off Paengmok Harbor in Jindo, South Jeolla, where the 6,825-ton ferry sank to a depth of more than 30 meters (98 feet), the joint rescue team, comprised of Coast Guard, military and civilian divers, also continued an all-out effort yesterday to bring ashore victims’ remains.

Taking advantage of the relatively calm sea, authorities hope to comb the sunken vessel to find the missing.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, 269 passengers of the 476 total were confirmed dead. Thirty-three others are still unaccounted for. Only 174 were rescued from the Sewol ferry.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]



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