Members of the Special Investigation Commission on the Sewol Ferry Disaster (hereonout referred to as Sewol Investigation Commission) have been waging a hunger strike since the end of July to demand the right to continue with its investigation of the Sewol Ferry disaster. The chair of the Sewol Investigation Commission, Lee Seok-tae, began the hunger strike on July 27. Other members of the Sewol Investigation Commission replaced Lee on August 3 to continue the hunger strike.
At the end of June, the government and the governing Saenuri party forcibly halted the investigation of the Sewol Ferry disaster. Under the stipulation of the Special Sewol Act, the Sewol Investigation Commission was given one year and six months to complete the investigation, but the government shut it down on June 30 before its mandate even reached one year. Through the hunger strike, members of the Sewol Investigation Commission aim to alert the general public that it is in a critical state and faces potential dissolution.
On August 4, 83 people joined the hunger strike in support of the Sewol Investigation Commission. One high school teacher who joined the protest stated, “The Sewol Investigation Commission plays a pivotal role and if the government goes as far as to [forcibly halt the investigation process], it makes it so much more difficult to reveal the truth about the Sewol Ferry disaster.”
Members of Sewol Investigation Commission make the following demands to the government:
- Reinstate the investigators of the Sewol Investigation Committee;
- Authorize the Sewol Investigation Commission to carry out a formal examination of the recovered parts of the Sewol ship;
- Guarantee that the investigation will be allowed to continue until at least February of 2017 and allow added time to account for the government’s disruption of the investigation since June 30;
- Apologize on behalf of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF), the coast guard, and other involved government ministries for their refusal to cooperate with the Commission’s inquiries; and
- Guarantee full support and cooperation from the government and the ministries involved in the investigation of the Sewol Ferry disaster.
The Sewol Investigation Commission is also preparing for its third public hearing in early September.
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