Regaining public trustA day before the 100th anniversary of the Sewol ferry accident, we remain embarrassed by the dismal state of society. The ruling and opposition parties continue to brawl over a bill aimed at laying bare the truth behind Korea’s worst maritime disaster and compensating the victims. Meanwhile, the victims’ families and civic groups vehemently called for the immediate enactment of the bill in a rally in central Seoul. After the tragedy, which left more than 300 passengers dead or missing, we all called for society to change. Looking back on past 100 days, however, we are still no better off.
President Park Geun-hye vowed to eliminate all government irregularities, promising a national revamp. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won also jumped on the bandwagon by announcing the establishment of a national committee solely devoted to a countrywide overhaul. The Park administration has put top priority on rooting out decades-old dubious connections between bureaucrats and the industries they are supposed to monitor.
The government sent to the National Assembly a revised law concerning public servants and ethics after extending the scope of the institutions at which government officials can be hired after retiring. It also lengthened the term of the employment ban. In addition, the government submitted a bill that strictly prohibits any form of solicitations in exchange for special favors in regard to civil servants. However, none of the bills have been enacted due to political wrangling.
Our society’s sense of public safety hasn’t improved either. In the subway crash at Sangwangsimni Station, more than 200 passengers were injured just two weeks after the Sewol disaster due to a malfunctioning traffic signal system. That was followed by a fire at a day care center for senior citizens, which took 21 lives. The collision of a tourist train on Tuesday is another example of negligence.
In a survey of 1,000 citizens conducted ahead of the 100th day after the Sewol tragedy, seven out of 10 expressed deeper distrust of the government. The Coast Guard and military fumbled in their rescue operations, the Blue House and other government agencies acted lethargically and the prosecution and police played out a comic drama in which they continued to search for Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken ferry, even as his corpse rotted for more than 40 days. If the government fails to regain the people’s trust, our society will pay the price. We must not forget the Sewol tragedy, as we must not repeat it. We must learn these lessons before it’s too late.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 24, Page 30
Correction and rebuttal statement by the Evangelical Baptist Church
The Korea JoongAng Daily, regarding the reports since April 16, 2014, about the Evangelical Baptist Church (EBC) and Yoo Byung-eun, is publishing the following corrections and an excerpt from the rebuttal statement by the EBC.
Through three past investigations by the prosecution, it has been revealed that Yoo and the EBC, also known as the “Salvation Group” and Guwonpa in Korean, are not related to the Odaeyang mass suicide incident. That was also confirmed by the prosecution in its official statement on May 21. The prosecution’s investigation also found that Yoo had not made an attempt to smuggle himself out of the country or seek political asylum in France. We, therefore, correct the concerned reports.
Yoo retired from his executive management position in 1997. He did not own any shares in the noted companies, nor had he managed operations or used the operating funds for personal reasons. There are no grounds to call him the actual owner and chairman of the company. As such, he did not provide any directives in regards to the overloading of the Sewol ferry or its renovation.
It was verified that the captain and crew members who abandoned ship at the time of the Sewol ferry accident are not members of the EBC. It has also been verified that the EBC does not own any shares of Chonghaejin Marine Company and did not engage in its management.
The EBC’s position is that the museums in the United States and Europe can never authorize an exhibition unless the artistic value of an artist’s works is recognized by the screening committee, irrespective of the amount of money an artist donates. The EBC’s position is that the exhibitions were not a result of Mr. Yoo’s patronage or donation, and Yoo also has not coerced Chonghaejin and its affiliates to purchase his photos.
The EBC states that Yoo did not participate in the foundation of the EBC in 1981, and the church does not offer him the title “pastor.” It also says a significant part of the 240 billion won ($206 million) worth of assets suspected of belonging to the Yoo family are real estate properties owned by the farming associations, which had been established by church members.
The EBC states that there are certain churches in Korea that call the EBC a cult, solely based on differences between their’s and the EBC’s doctrines.
But the EBC does not worship a particular individual as a religious sect leader or preach any doctrine that contradicts the Bible.