[Press Conference] Filing the April 16 Special Act with the committee for the families, Korean Bar Association, and National Planning Committee

Press conference for filing the April 16 Special Act with the committee for the families, Korean Bar Association, and National Planning Committee


Date/venue: July 9 (Wed), 1PM, Press Room in the National Assembly


The special committee for the victims / missing people / bereaved family members from the Sewol Ferry disaster, as well as the Korean Bar Association and the National Planning Committee on the Sewol Ferry disaster, held a press conference to file a petition for the legislation of the “Special Act for Uncovering the Facts Behind the 4.16 Calamity and the Construction of a Safer Society” (hereafter referred to as the April 16 Special Act or “The Act”). Two lawmakers were present, the New Frontier Party lawmaker Myeongyeon Kim (Danwon Gap, Ansan, Gyeonggi) and New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker Jwahyun Boo (Danwon Eul, Ansan, Gyeonggi), and were presented with the ”National Representation of the Petition for the April 16 Special Act” at 1PM in the Press Room of the National Assembly.

The Act consists of measures that include fact-finding, disaster prevention, the establishment of preventive measures, and the support of the victims of the tragedy. Sixteen experts were recommended by the National Assembly and victim associations for finding the direct, indirect, and structural causes of the disaster. There is a need for a strong independent authority to investigate the accident and establish disaster prevention measures and countermeasures. The Act provides for 3 subcommittees that deal with “fact-finding”, ”safety measures for the society” and ”healing and remembrance”; the permanent members in the first subcommittee are allowed to act as independent prosecutors only for the investigative case. In addition, a regulation was added to limit the term served to 2 + 1 years. One hundred and twenty secretariat officials will aid with the investigations and inquiries.

The Act stipulates that a government agency shall implement the various recommendations stated in the final report once the special committee on the Sewol Ferry disaster submits the investigation results to the president (Article 30). It is now time to take a step toward building a safer society for all Koreans, rather than to create pages of useless, unread reports.

The April 16 Special Act also contained an opinion from the victims’ rights groups. It set aside the compensation/liability issues in order to concentrate on vital fact-finding issues; it did, however, include minimum guidelines related to the support of Sewol ferry victims. This section was added to partially resolve issues raised about compensation/liability concerns after a massive disaster (Article 38). Lastly, the act establishes the April 16 Safety Foundation to remember and commemorate the victims through the construction of a safer society. The activities would contribute to improving the current laws and system, and establish a safer society for all of our people.

Please refer to the links and petitions below for further information.
Core contents of the April 16 Special Act and differences in the acts submitted by each political party
Preamble of the special act 
List of the delegates for the petition of the special act
Archive of the public presentation on the special act
[Video] April 16 Special Act “Please do not make it happen again” July 9, 2014, Planning committee of the families in the Sewol Ferry disaster, petition for legislating the April 16 Special Act

Press statement: Pass the April 16 Special Act

We ask the government to pass a special act to uncover the truth behind the April 16th Sewol Ferry disaster and to begin building a safer society.

On April 16th, 2014, we were forced to be a part of one of the greatest peacetime disasters in our history. We suddenly became parents who lost our precious children, spouses who lost our lifelong companions, and families who are forever changed, doomed to the agony of not knowing what really happened that fateful day. We have been humiliated and betrayed by our own government, for no reason other than that we are the victims of this calamity. We have done nothing wrong. We now feel that we are adrift in a sea where the value of life, the hope of truth, and the promise of safety are struggling to stay afloat on a churning, dark sea. Now, we find that we must stand up for those who can no longer speak for themselves.

We demand that the government set up the April 16 Special Act. We have collected millions of signatures from the public asking for the establishment of the Act. Although we families suffer from heartbreak and sorrow, our suffering has not gone unnoticed: the petition has been spreading quickly overseas to many nations and we have collected responses from more than a million people. We would like to gather the signatures of 10 million people because we know our cause is just: we want the government to pass the April 16 Special Act. No one could possibly see the Sewol ferry disaster as a common accident. This special act will be one small way we can speak up for the victims and help prevent future disasters like the sinking of the ferry.

Setting up this special act actually reflects the voices of the victims’ families and those of all concerned citizens. We were deeply disappointed when we heard about the useless “special act” created by the National Assembly. An independent investigative body with strong authority is absolutely vital to the discovery of the truth behind the disaster. The Presidential Office should also submit evidence to aid the investigation. The Act does not allow anyone or any group to refrain from providing needed evidence for the investigation. The independent investigating body should have enough time to conduct its investigation. Previous bills that would have allowed for six months to a year for the investigation are insufficient. A safer society can only be brought about over time. The Korean government has proposed something called the “recurrence preventive measures” for past disasters. However, it was just a stopgap measure that only resulted in repeat disasters. This act enacts overall safety measures to help build a safer society and holds the government responsible for its duties.

The government should set up the April 16 Special Act with the consensus from the families and the ruling and opposition parties. We cannot make the different political parties pass the special act. However, the will of the people can be clearly seen. It was members of the public who gave yellow ribbons to the families caught in the agony of the Sewol ferry disaster. Average citizens came and held the hands of those suffering in Jindo and Ansan. Ordinary people filed petitions online—and offline— to call for the establishment of a special act. We, the families, are very grateful for all of the sympathy and support of regular people. We want to do our best to help establish this special act that will benefit our entire nation. The people of our nation, and those of many around the world, are supporting the special act. Here, we ask the parties to assemble a roundtable meeting for the families and the ruling and opposition parties to discuss the special act.

The April 16 Special Act is a promise to those precious souls who were unable to cross the sea and come safely into the loving embrace of their families. Now, we must cross the sea for those who were lost. It is our responsibility to find out what happened when the ferry sank. We need to find the truth and re-open the route in the sea. We need to create a safer society. We will stand with those who have suffered in this disaster. Even if this act is passed, we know that we will only begin to see beginning of a safer world. However, just as we can never return to the time when we held our lost loved ones in our arms, we also cannot give up on asking for the passage of this special act.

July 9, 2014

Family committee for victims / missing / and survivor of the Sewol Ferry disaster
People’s Committee for the Sewol Ferry Tragedy
Korean Bar Association

 Korean Statement >> [기자회견] 4·16 특별법을 가족들과 공동으로 입법 청원했습니다

Translated by Giseok Ahn, Volunteer

Proofread by Kelly Lee, Volunteer