South Korea MPs to quiz doctors and nurses about Park’s ‘missing’ 7 hours
Seven hours may have sealed the fate of South Korea’s beleaguered President Park Geun-hye. That was the time between the first news reports that the Sewol ferry carrying hundreds of children was sinking off the nation’s southern coast on April 16, 2014 and her first TV appearance that day. The tragedy, which claimed the lives of 304 people many of them kids from one high school continues to gnaw at the nation’s consciousness, especially because a rescue effort was widely seen as botched. A lack of information on Park’s whereabouts and actions during that time has fuelled conspiracy theories which have reemerged during the investigation into an influence-peddling scandal that is poised to bring down her presidency.
The missing seven hours may have marked a turning point in Park’s relationship with the nation’s people, breeding mistrust and anger, and leaving many South Koreans, now seething over the current scandal, to question what else may have been covered-up. “What was she doing while the children were dying?” asked Kim Geum-ja-whose son was killed in the tragedy-and who is among a group of activists camped-out in Seoul’s main ceremonial plaza since shortly after the disaster. “What was so urgent that she was missing for seven hours?”
Today, a parliamentary panel looking into the influence-peddling allegations will hold a hearing specifically on the missing seven hours and is expected to probe into exactly what Park was doing during that time. The seven hours were included by parliament in its motion to impeach her. Park’s former medical staff, including two personal doctors and two nurses, are scheduled to appear, as is an outside plastic surgeon who treated Choi Soon-sil, Park’s friend at the centre of the scandal.
Last month, more than two years after the disaster, Park’s office published a page on its website detailing what reports the president received, and when, on the day of the sinking in a bid to quell the rumors about what she was doing at the time. “We’ve repeatedly explained, two years ago and since then, that she had been receiving reports about the Sewol incident all throughout the day and gave instructions either by phone or written reports,” Kim Dong-jo, a Blue House spokesman said.
The official timeline details exactly when Park received reports or gave orders, including an early demand-less than an hour after the doomed ferry began to sink-to make sure that there are no casualties and that no one on board is left behind. —Reuters