[Statement] President Park: Apologize to the Sewol ferry victims’ families and dismiss those responsible for unwarranted spying

President Park: Apologize to the Sewol ferry victims’ families and dismiss those responsible for unwarranted spying

(20 May 2014, Seoul) The police have been covertly shadowing and spying on the bereaved families of Sewol ferry victims. On May 19th, the Family Countermeasure Committee for the Sewol Ferry Tragedy said that members of the victims’ families discovered that plainclothes policemen from the Information Department were following the families. After they protested against this inappropriate use of police surveillance, the chief of the Gyeong-gi Province Police Agency issued an apology. Several of the victims’ families noted that they have been suspicious of being followed by the police; this suspicion has now been confirmed. The president offered an apology to the victims of the police surveillance, but the plainclothes officers from the Information Department have continued to follow the families. This unwarranted surveillance by the police of those already suffering is disgraceful. The government and the president should apologize for spying on the families and immediately dismiss the person who ordered the surveillance.

When the surveillance of the families was brought to light, the police made an apology, but claimed that they were only following the families to “protect” or “help” them. This is an obvious cover-up: there is no reason to secretly provide “protection” to the victims’ families. The officers shadowing the families are “peace preservation” police belonging to the Information Security Department; incidentally, the police have denied the families access to these intelligence reports. This is not a simple misunderstanding. That the police have shadowed and compiled reports on the bereaved families means that the police regard the families as “potential criminals”. This is further proof that the government is placing an emphasis on its own security rather than on the urgent rescue or investigation into the sinking of the ferry. There is a clear lack of empathy for the pain of the victims’ families.

During a peaceful protest that was supposed to end at the Blue House (the President’s office), police with riot gear blocked those marching and the presidential spokesperson made inappropriate remarks about the “genuinely bereaved families”. Government officials have turned a deaf ear to the cries of the people, instead denouncing the victims’ families as “uncivilized”, “running wild”, and “exploiting the situation politically”. From the shocking, recently-disclosed report guidelines on the Sewol ferry tragedy to the inappropriate surveillance by the police, evidence is mounting that the government is involved in the manipulation of public opinion and tip-off politics; these actions are reminiscent of the period of military dictatorship. At the very least, it shows that President Park’s government’s fundamental perception toward the tragedy is problematic.

We strongly condemn the surveillance of innocent civilians: it is not only a violation of their privacy, but it treats the bereaved families as ”potential criminals”. In order to vouch for the authenticity of the president’s public statement and belated apology, an apology should be made directly by the president, not by the chief of the Gyeong-gi Province Police Agency. The person responsible for the unwarranted surveillance, as well as those involved in the action, should be strictly censured and dismissed.

Korean Statement >> 대통령은 유족 사찰 사과하고 책임자를 해임하라

Translated by Zo Misung, Volunteer
Proofread by Kelly Lee, Volunteer