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Park Blue House doctored files on Sewol sinking

Time when president received initial report was changed to later
Oct 13,2017
The former administration had doctored documents on the Sewol Ferry’s sinking, including when then-President Park Geun-hye received the initial report on the deadly accident in 2014, the Blue House said Thursday.

Im Jong-seok, President Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff, held a press conference in the afternoon and announced that digital documents were found in the computer system of the National Security Office on Wednesday, indicating that the Park Blue House manipulated the daily journal on the day of Sewol Ferry’s sinking.

Im also said paper trails from the Park Blue House were found inside a cabinet of the National Crisis Management Center on Sept. 27, indicating that the former administration illegally revised crisis management guidelines.

The ferry, carrying 476 people, mostly high school students on a field trip, capsized on its way from Incheon to Jeju in the morning of April 16, 2014, resulting in the deaths of 304 people. The Park administration’s slow response to the tragedy invited much criticism.

Park, who took office in February 2013, was impeached and removed from office in March 2017 for allowing her friend to interfere in state affairs for private gains. While the Constitutional Court rejected the National Assembly’s arguments that Park should be removed for having failed to fulfill her duty to protect the lives of citizens when the Sewol ferry sank in 2014, her absence for the first seven hours of the disaster has become a matter of national controversy.

According to Im, the Park Blue House later changed the timeline of the Crisis Management Center’s briefing to Park on the day of the sinking. The Park Blue House had said she received the initial reporting on the ferry accident at 10 a.m. on the day of accident and made the first order at 10:15 a.m., but she appeared to have received her first briefing 30 minutes earlier, Im said. “The report we discovered recently showed that the Crisis Management Center made the first situation report at 9:30 a.m.,” Im said. “It said the president, chief of staff and the presidential security service head received the report.”

Im added, “The issue is that the Blue House doctored the timeline on the report on Oct. 23, 2014. The report, revised six months later, showed that Park received her first briefing at 10 a.m.”

Im suspected that the change was made to reduce the time gap between how long Park took to make her first order after receiving the briefing from 45 minutes to 15 minutes. “Taking into account the crucial importance of every minute at the time, it makes me have many thoughts,” Im said.

Im also said the Park administration illegally revised the basic crisis management manual after the ferry accident. Although the head of the National Security Office at the Blue House is in charge of the crisis control, the manual was illegally changed in July 2014 so that the office is in charge of a security crisis, while the Ministry of Security and Public Administration is in charge of national disasters.

According to Im, the manual was revised by hand with a red pen, and the Blue House distributed it to all ministries on July 31, 2014.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]