[Statement] A Special Bill drafted through collusion and without authority to investigate and prosecute should be nullified and renegotiated

[Statement] A Special Bill drafted through collusion and without authority to investigate and prosecute should be nullified and renegotiated

Difficulties ahead in fact-finding with the current Special Prosecutor Bill system where the appointment is made by the President

Holding an open forum debate with the victims’ family members is necessary

(7 August 2014, Seoul) Lee Wan-koo, the representative for Saenuri Party and Park Young-sun, the representative for New Politics for Democracy (NPAD) had their weekly meeting today (August 7th). They reached agreements on several Sewol ferry special bill issues such as maintaining the current system of appointing an independent special prosecutor in regards to the ‘Sewol Special Bill’, placing 17 members to the Fact-Finding Special Committee, and decided to handle and finalize these issues on their upcoming plenary meeting on Wednesday, August 13th.

This agreement is considered to be collusion by both parties which practically abandons all rights to a proper investigation and prosecution – rights which the Victims’ Family’s Special Committee, the National Planning Committee, and the majority of this nation has asked for. We are condemning this act of collusion that disregards the public’s demand to enact a proper special bill, and agreed upon by both parties merely as an exchange for their own needs. An agreement that does not reflect the public opinion is invalid. The National Planning Committee is strongly calling for the rival parties to hold an open forum debate, gather opinions from the Sewol ferry disaster victims’ families and the public, and renegotiate the Special Bill for a proper enactment.

First of all, the agreement which allows the President to appoint an independent special prosecutor to lead all investigations and prosecutions instead of giving the investigation / prosecution authorities to the Fact-Finding Special Committee – this itself is a problem. The ‘4.16 Special Bill’ petition asks to give the Fact-Finding Special Committee authorities to prosecute and investigate. This petition was made by the victims’ families, the National Planning Committee, the Korean Bar Association, and was signed by 3.5 million people. However, the National Assembly did not even place this in their agenda for discussion. The National Assembly which is supposed to represent the people has completely dismissed the people’s voice. It is clear what the Sewol ferry victims’ families and the public are demanding in regards to complete fact-finding. It is to prevent similar disasters from happening by punishing those who are responsible, which can only be done by giving the Fact-Finding Special Committee authorities to investigate and prosecute so they can lead an unbiased, independent, thorough, and total investigation where no one can hide. The Saenuri Party opposed the idea of handing over the investigation / prosecution authorities with unsound arguments in regard to the judicial system while NPAD at first was resistant about conceding the investigation / prosecution authorities but later gave them all up including the right to nominate the special prosecutor. We condemn the two rival parties’ collusion which is ultimately blocking the path to finding the truth about the Sewol ferry disaster. Representatives Lee Wan-koo and Park Young-sun of both parties who have led this collusion will be liable for their acts and should take responsibility by resigning their positions.

Rival parties colluding instead of granting the Fact-Finding Special Committee authorities to investigate and prosecute is the perfect example of the past powerless system between fact-finding committees and the special prosecutor. The current ‘Special Prosecutor Act’ in particular, has seven members including the deputy Minister of Justice, director from the Office of Court Administration, and the Chairman of the Korean Bar Association in the ‘Special Prosecutor Nomination Committee’ where they would select two candidates and the President would then select one out of the two. It is a system where the Special Prosecutor will be selected in favor of the President and the ruling party. The current subject of the investigation should target the Blue House (Cheongwadae), the National Intelligence Service, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, and the Korea Coast Guard. However, it will be nearly impossible to investigate all these authoritative government agencies to uncover the truth with the current ‘Special Prosecutor Act’ which only allows a two-month time-frame.

The ‘Sewol Special Bill’ is not just any bill where the rival parties can come to an agreement for the sake of turning over a situation. The ones who first demanded the ‘Sewol Special Bill’ are the families of the victims from the Sewol ferry disaster. They went around the entire nation for the petition to enact the ‘Special Bill’ and witnessed 3.5 million people sign this petition within a period of just two months. This ‘Special Bill’ was started in a pledge to improve the society so that a disaster like the Sewol ferry incident would never happen again. The Saenuri Party and NPAD should really look back and see if the agreement made today will make fact-finding truly possible, punish those who are responsible, and ultimately build a safer society.

It is not too late and there is still time. Representatives from both rival parties should hold a public hearing with their agreement along with the ‘4.16 Special Bill’ presented by the victims’ families. A special bill cannot be enact without the consent of victims’ families and the public opinion. The ‘Sewol Special Bill’ must guarantee the Fact-Finding Special Committee with actual authorities to investigate and prosecute. If the independent special prosecutor is scheduled to be selected, then the power to nominate candidates must be given to the Fact-Finding Special Committee for the sake of independency. The ‘Special Bill’ must be renegotiated before its enactment in order for a thorough and complete fact-finding. There are still ten missing bodies in the dark seas of Jindo that have yet to come back home. We strongly urge to enact a special bill that will lead to thorough fact-finding, punish those who are responsible, and build a safe society. Please remember the hundreds of victims’ families including a father of his deceased son refusing to lay his hands on any food for the 25th day, currently protesting by sit-in in front of the National Assembly and the Gwanghwamun Gate.

7 August 2014
People’s Committee for the Sewol Ferry Tragedy

Translated by Sewol Truth
Korean Statement >> 수사권 기소권 없는 특별법 야합은 무효, 재협상해야