Relatives disgruntled with Sewol bill agreement

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Relatives disgruntled with Sewol bill agreement

After the two main political parties reached a compromise Tuesday night on the special bill for investigating the sinking of the Sewol, which ended nearly five months of paralysis at the National Assembly, the families of the victims of the maritime tragedy said they were against the agreement.

“I can’t agree with the compromise at all because I can’t trust it,” said Kim Seong-sil, deputy head of the Sewol Family Countermeasure Committee, in a radio interview yesterday. Kim’s son died in the accident.

On Tuesday night, the ruling Saenuri Party and main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) agreed on the broad outline of the Sewol bill and just a few hours later passed 90 bills pending in the National Assembly. The NPAD had refused to participate in any legislative activities until the Sewol bill was broadly decided on.

Yesterday, eight standing committees embarked on preparations for the three-week parliamentary inspection rescheduled to begin next Tuesday, which also was threatened by the legislative paralysis.

The victims’ relatives fear that they will be frozen out of the process of forming a seven-member committee that will recommend two candidates for a special prosecutor to investigate the April 16 tragedy that killed 300 people and the woefully inadequate rescue operation. The special prosecutor will ultimately be chosen by President Park Geun-hye from the two candidates.

In the breakthrough pact reached Tuesday, the two political parties agreed to consider at some later point whether the recommendation process will involve the relatives of the Sewol victims or not. That signaled a regression from the NPAD’s previous demand that the families be granted a say in the process.

“Why later?” asked Kim of the Sewol Family Countermeasure Committee. “Why not now?”

Park Young-sun, the opposition floor leader, also revealed contradictory statements about Tuesday’s agreement on the Sewol bill.

“The special Sewol bill, the saddest bill in the world, was finally compromised on to my deepest sorrow,” she wrote via Twitter yesterday. “How could it be so hard to wipe away the tears and sorrow of the weak on this land?”

Park paid a visit yesterday to the offices of the Sewol Family Countermeasure Committee in Ansan, southwest of Seoul, and asked them to accept the painstakingly negotiated deal.

But the committee demanded that the promise to discuss later the relatives’ role be changed “right away.”

Park had warned reporters a day earlier that the relatives wouldn’t be satisfied.

“I feel extremely heavyhearted about the fact that I can’t reflect all of the broken hearts of the families [of the Sewol victims],” she said.

However, some members of the NPAD started saying that now is the time to distance themselves from the relatives of the Sewol victims.

Senior lawmaker Park Jie-won said in a radio interview yesterday that the “discussion later” part of the agreement would be hard to be carried out realistically.


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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