The Mystery of Park's Missing Seven Hours

Der Untergang der Ferry SEWOL bei Jindo, Südkorea
Hankyoreh,  [Editorial] Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis

Audit only magnifies the mystery of Park’s missing seven hours

Oct.17, 2014

We aren’t even comfortable using the term “audit” to refer to the report that the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) submitted to the National Assembly during the parliamentary audit about the actions taken by the Blue House on the day of the Sewol tragedy (Apr. 16). The report does little more than acknowledge the inconsistency of the briefings that the Blue House National Security Office made to President Park Geun-hye about the number of passengers who had been rescued, which were based on several similarly inconsistent reports received from the situation room at the Coast Guard in the morning and afternoon of day in question.

It has also emerged that the report the Blue House provided the BAI about Park’s actions was only two A4 pages in length. While we cannot know whether the BAI made public all of the findings of its audit, what is clear is that the Blue House has consistently tried to conceal the truth and that the BAI also abandoned its efforts to carry out a proper audit.

While the Blue House says that it gave Park 24 briefings, both over the phone and in writing, on the day of the tragedy, it has been tight-lipped about what kind of orders Park gave in response. That question also remains unanswered in the BAI report. The implication is that it is very likely that the president gave no response to the briefings she was receiving from her Blue House secretaries.

There is absolutely no reason to hide the orders that Park gave, and it’s hard to imagine why nothing is being said about these orders except for the possibility that Park never gave any orders to begin with.

We were amazed - and dismayed - to learn that President Park asked why it was so hard to find the students if they were wearing life jackets when she visited the Central Disaster Headquarters around 5:15 pm on the day of the tragedy. This was the point when people started to get really curious. Why would the president ask such a peculiar and inappropriate question about the status of the Sewol, as if she were the only person in South Korea who had no idea what was going on?

But the report prepared by the BAI says that the National Security Office briefed President Park before she visited the Central Disaster Headquarters about the possibility that most of the passengers who had not yet been rescued were trapped on the ship.

The fact that Park could have asked such a strange question despite receiving this briefing could only mean that she received the briefing but completely failed to grasp its meaning. This only inflames curiosity about what kind of situation the president could have been in that would have prevented her from understanding such a simple briefing.

question of what Park was doing on the day of the Sewol tragedy is like a bone stuck in the throat. No doubt, it is extremely awkward for the president, but the same is true South Korean society as a whole. In fact, this problem is one of the primary causes of the extreme pain that Koreans have suffered since the Sewol tragedy. The one thing that is clear is that the Blue House cannot get out of removing that bone even if it wants to, nor should it try.