Sewol document forgery faces new probe
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) plans to push for a National Assembly investigation into the presidential office over its revelation that documents about the Sewol ferry disaster were illegally changed under the Park Geun-hye government.
Its move Friday comes a day after Cheong Wa Dae disclosed that documents showing the presidential office under Park changed the time she was first briefed about the disaster in 2014.
Calling the revelation “political maneuvering,” the party claimed the presidential office should explain how it obtained the documents and that it would face a search if the parliamentary investigation happens.
“We decided to request a parliamentary probe into the presidential office for having presented the unverified documents,” LKP floor leader Chung Woo-taik said during a party meeting.
LKP lawmakers questioned the timing of the disclosure, claiming it was intended to influence a local court decision on whether to extend the detention of Park, who is on trial for corruption. The backlash became stronger after the Seoul Central District Court extended the detention of Park, which was initially set to expire Monday, for another six months.
“It aimed to send a strong signal that the judiciary should extend Park’s detention,” Chung said.
The lawmakers also claimed the revelation was intended to sabotage the ongoing parliamentary audit of government offices, the first under the Moon Jae-in administration, by distracting public attention.
“It is highly questionable if it is permissible for a presidential chief of staff to give a briefing about something that could overshadow all the other issues on the first day of the Assembly audit,” said the party’s deputy floor leader Kim Seon-dong. “It’s an insult and a means to sabotage the ongoing audit.”
Later in the day, Cheong Wa Dae asked the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office to investigate the changing of official documents by Park’s aides.
According to Cheong Wa Dae, an electronic document from the National Security Office (NSO) showed that on April 16, 2014, the day of the incident, Park was first told about the sinking at 9:30 a.m. but on Oct. 23 that year, Cheong Wa Dae changed this to 10 a.m.
Moon’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok told a briefing Thursday that he viewed it as an attempt to reduce the gap between the first report and Park’s first order of a rescue operation, which was made at 10:15 a.m.
Other documents also showed presidential guidelines on dealing with a national crisis had been changed without due process after the bungled rescue operation.
NSO chief Kim Kwan-jin is suspected of having ordered the illegal revision to the guidelines on crisis management — moving responsibility for handling national crises from the NSO to the now defunct Ministry of Security and Public Administration — in July 2014.
This was shortly after then-presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon testified at the Assembly that the presidential office was not a control tower for the tragedy, in which more than 300 passengers died.
Meanwhile, liberal parties have criticized the Park administration for the alteration of the documents.