A Statement by the Families of the Victims of the Ferry Sewol Disaster
Those Affected Calling for a Fact-Finding Investigation into the Tragedy
A month after the sinking of the ferry Sewol the details of the disaster are still unfolding. Nothing appears to have changed since the time the accident occurred. The government is still talking about its best effort towards resolution, but we do not see it. The National Assembly is also saying a lot about the disaster without attaining any visible results. Although some mainstream journalists have been heard expressing remorse over how their initial coverage of the disaster was distorted and far from the truth, their current reports hardly show any change compared to a month ago. Right at this moment, the government, the National Assembly, and the media should show us how they are actually doing their best and what they are doing to achieve results. It is now the time when they should put their best effort into practice.
1. The families of the missing are still gathered at Port Pangmok and in a gym on Jindo Island where they continue to wait and cry for their loved ones. Most reporters are long gone and only the families remain. As long as any one of the victims remains missing the Sewol disaster is still on going. Please take every possible measure to reunite these families.
2. We have lost so many of our children’s precious lives. Throughout the entire rescue operation we have lost confidence and trust in the government and society. However, we would like to work to overcome our grief, pain, and distrust. An initial step towards that will be truthful contrition by all those responsible for the disaster. The process will be completed once a thorough investigation is made and the actual truth about the disaster finally gets brought to light. The fact-finding investigation should not be limited to criminal punishment of some of those responsible or some incomplete measures to respond to disasters. At least the following should be included in such a thorough investigation.
A.The most important thing in trying to find the truth is listening to the voices of the victims’ families. Setting up a fact-finding panel, prosecuting the criminals, ensuring the evidence, all of these must include the participation of the victims’ families, and must reflect their voices.
B. The investigation into the Sewol ferry disaster must include the fundamental causes of the disaster, both direct and indirect, the initial response both before the sinking and during the first 3 days following the sinking, the rescue and recovery efforts, the handling of those responsible, and the support and compensation for the victims’ families. Sufficient time for the investigation to cover all of these points should also be guaranteed.
C. The investigation must not target just the government officials directly involved at the disaster site, but also the educational institutions, the appropriate government branches, all the appropriate officials including the President, the Congress, the media, and even the private sectors that are involved. The thorough investigation must be performed into the words and actions taken by those involved, the decisions made, and the timing and manner in which those decisions were practiced.
D. In order to establish this proper investigation, all of the information on how the disaster was reported as well as what was ordered by the Blue House must be revealed to the public. The entire process of reporting, decision-making, allocating resources, and giving directions must be disclosed as well as all the related documents of the private institutions that are involved in the disaster.
E. The investigation must be carried out by a third party with no ties to the government nor to the National Assembly. This investigative body must be able to exercise its rights to demand government organizations to provide appropriate documents or evidence, to summon the involved parties, to hold a hearing, to take force when faced with uncooperative attitude without justifiable cause. The investigative body must be guaranteed with sufficient budget and manpower to carry out these demands.
F. The fact-finding investigation into the Sewol disaster must reflect the results of such investigations by state and civic entities such as parliamentary inspection, criminal investigation and trial, audit by the Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea (BAI) and administrative entities, self-assessment and proposal for reform by the Blue House and government agencies, a special prosecutor, and investigations by civic groups. These investigations at the state and the societal levels also must be given access to relevant agencies’ information.
G. This fact-finding investigation into the Sewol disaster must be able to call the responsible people and agencies to be held accountable for civil, criminal, administrative, political, and moral responsibility on the basis of the outcome of the investigation.
H. The outcome of the investigation into the Sewol disaster should improve the relevant rules and regulations, regulate budgets, and prepare practical and effective manuals to prevent any future, similar disasters. New regulation reinforcement and audits on the follow-up measures should also be carried out to build a reliable anti-disaster system.
3. We ask the President: Your intention is the most important of all the deciding factors to make this fact-finding investigation possible. Please sincerely accept our requests and lead, as a president who has learned from this crisis, the rebuilding of trust in the state and society.
We ask the National Assembly: A special law must be implemented in order to make the thorough investigation we demand possible. Please meet our demands and become the true representatives of the nation regardless of what party you belong to.
We ask the media: Please report our requests as they are. Furthermore, please suggest what else is necessary and who will make the investigation as thorough as possible on the basis of your own research and analysis. Please honor your role as critics and observers for the thorough investigation and become the truthful media for the people.
We ask civil societies and the people: Please join in our request for a fact-finding investigation. Please be part of our petition for this investigation; sign it, recommend it to others, and collect other signatures for it. We saw your power from the very first day of the disaster and we believe in it.
We would like our country to become one that respects human dignity and provides safety to its entire population. We want to regain the confidence and trust in the country and in society. Many precious lives sacrificed over the disaster are heroes who have shown us society’s weaknesses one by one from the bottom of the cold sea. But will they be remembered as mere victims or heroes? This depends on us, the living. Please let us pool all of our efforts together.
May 16, 2014
The families of the victims, the missing, and the survivors of the Sewol Ferry Disaster
(Translated by Newspro)