Sewol relatives questioned, insist fight was mutual

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Sewol relatives questioned, insist fight was mutual

Five relatives of the victims who died in the Sewol ferry sinking appeared yesterday at the Yeongdeungpo Police Precinct for questioning after allegedly having assaulted a driver-for-hire and two others in a drunken scuffle on Wednesday.

All five are members of the Sewol Family Countermeasure Committee that represents the families who lost their loved ones in the April 16 disaster. The five reportedly involved in the brawl as well as four others on the committee resigned late on Wednesday to take responsibility for the fight.

The police said last week that Rep. Kim Hyun of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), who had taken the relatives out to dinner, had argued with the driver. The five relatives on the committee, including its Chairman Kim Byeong-gwon and Senior Deputy Chairman Kim Hyeong-gi, allegedly started the violence.

The police investigation will focus on whether both parties assaulted each other, given that the driver and two passersby insist they were the only ones attacked.

The committee, however, claims its members were also assaulted.

The police yesterday said they had acquired a statement and pictures from a witness, a 53-year-old driver-for-hire surnamed Doh, who claimed he saw the entire incident unfold. He reportedly told police that the driver and two passersby, who were only trying to evade harm, were abruptly attacked.

He also handed over 31 snapshots he took at the scene, though the police said there wasn’t a photograph that could prove the brawl was mutual.

“It doesn’t make sense that we attacked them because we reported the incident to the police,” one of the two who tried to break up the fight told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We showed our hands to the police when the officers came to the scene as proof that we did not hit them.”

However, former Chairman Kim and the former senior deputy chairman were taken to the hospital, claiming they had also been attacked.

“It seems that the former chairman and senior deputy chairman were hit by others,” said the committee’s lawyer, Park Ju-min. “The senior deputy chairman broke six teeth, while the driver and two passersby were only slightly injured.”

But the CCTV footage and statements from witnesses appear to be against the relatives. “We are not sure whether it was a mutual fight. CCTV footage has an image of the senior deputy on the ground on his own,” a police officer said.

Doh and one of the two passersby involved in the scuffle also stated that they saw Senior Deputy Chairman Kim lying on the ground.

Still, the committee insists that the brawl was a mutual fight. “We are sure that it was a mutual fight based on the CCTV footage,” Park said. “The committee officials stepped down only because having officials under investigation would be difficult.”


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