Commemorative photography with doomed ferry puts politicians on troubled waters

Members of the opposition People’s Party take a group photo against the backdrop of the doomed ferry Sewol at Mokpo New Port on Friday. / Yonhap

By Park Si-soo

Was it an unintended mishap or a reflection of a lack of sympathy?

The opposition People’s Party has come under harsh criticism after some of its members were caught taking commemorative group photos against the backdrop of the doomed ferry Sewol at Mokpo New Port on Friday, even despite outcries of the bereaved families.

At least three members of the party, who visited the port accompanying the party’s leader Park Ji-won, were spotted making what critics called an “immoral” and “unethical” act that was tantamount to “hammering a nail into the hearts of those who lost their beloved family members in the accident.”

The sinking of the Sewol on April 16, 2014, was recorded as one of the worst maritime disasters in the history of South Korea that left more than 300 passengers, mostly innocent and obedient high school students taking a school trip, dead with nine still unaccounted for. A search of the half-destroyed hull will begin soon with hopes that the remains of the nine missing might be found.

The controversial photo shoot was reported Friday afternoon and the opposition party was instantly overwhelmed by a wave of harsh comments.

The party’s leader apologized quickly and promised to discipline those who took the photographs.

“I express my deepest apology over this careless act of (my) party members,” Park stated on his Facebook page. “I will see they will pay pay the price for the careless deed. Also I will ask law enforcement to take action against them because private photo shoots have been banned in the port’s compound for security reasons.”

The port where the ferry Sewol is planned to be moved to from the semisubmersible transport ship it is now on, is classified as a security facility and any unauthorized photography within its compound can be subject to a fine of up to 3 million won.

According to reports, one of the embroiled party members said he took the photos to show to his friends, not knowing it was illegal.

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