Park’s Sewol disappearance gains new focus

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Park’s Sewol disappearance gains new focus

A nursing officer from the Armed Forces Medical Command in Seongnam, south of Seoul, was dispatched to the Blue House on the day of the Sewol ferry sinking, according to local media Thursday.

If true, this could further support allegations that President Park Geun-hye was undergoing cosmetic surgery during the first seven hours of the sinking on April 16, 2014.

Broadcaster YTN reported Thursday that a nursing officer was at the presidential office on the day Sewol sank in waters off Jindo, South Jeolla, citing an anonymous source from the prosecution’s special investigation team into the scandal surrounding Choi Soon-sil, the longtime friend of the president.

While details over why the officer was sent to the Blue House and what medical procedures may have been performed were not reported, the broadcaster’s report added to suspicions that Park was under some form of medical treatment during the crucial hours after the ferry started sinking, which ultimately led to the deaths of 304 people.

There is already speculation that Park may have undergone cosmetic surgery and was, at the time, anesthetized by propofol.

Such rumors stem from the fact that it took nearly seven hours for her to make a public appearance in the wake of what became the country’s worst maritime disaster. Park’s question to an official at around 5:15 p.m. that day, during her visit to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, fueled such speculation. During the meeting, Park said, “I was told that the students were wearing life vests. Is it hard to find them?” The remark caused many to question whether she was aware of the gravity of the situation or had been receiving any updates on it during the morning.

Park’s seven-hour absence became a mystery, and Blue House officials initially refused to say where she was or what she was doing at the time. Kim Ki-choon, then presidential chief of staff, said before the National Assembly on July 7, 2014, that he had no information about Park’s whereabouts during those seven hours. The Presidential Security Service also refused to disclose any information.

The Blue House later revealed she had been briefed on the accident 15 times that day, but questions linger over what action the head of staff took in her first response after being briefed. Park’s disappearance is now referred to as the “lost seven hours” by critics.

The presidential office on Thursday denied the report that a nursing officer was dispatched to the Blue House, saying there was no record of such a visit.

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

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