Sewol Investigators Raid Offices of Korea Coast Guard
On Friday, a new special prosecution unit raided multiple offices of the Korea Coast Guard to look for evidence related to the sinking of the ferry Sewol in 2014, a national tragedy that claimed the lives of more than 300 people.
Authorities entered the service's main headquarters in Incheon and regional stations in Mokpo, Wando and Yeosu on Friday morning, according to South Korean media. Dong-a Ilbo reports that the raids recovered personnel records listing the names of the first responders on the day of the sinking, along with other documents related to the disaster.
The raids are part of the latest in a long series of investigations into the loss of the ferry Sewol, which claimed the lives of 304 people. The overwhelming majority of the victims were high school students, and their parents' calls for justice sparked protests that ultimately brought down the government of then-President Park Geun-hye.
The new criminal inquiry will follow up on leads generated by a long-running civil inquiry into the circumstances of the sinking and the post-accident response. The special committee conducting the civil investigation is transferring its findings to the special prosecutorial team, including evidence of alleged deficiencies in the Korea Coast Guard's post-accident response.
As the disaster's legacy is closely intertwined with Korean politics, the government's launch of a new criminal investigation has raised speculation about the possibility of political motivation. Lim Gwan-hyeok, the prosecutor heading up the inquiry, downplayed these concerns in recent interviews. “As the prosecutor general has said, the need for the prosecution’s take on the case has been brought up multiple times,” Lim told Korean media. “There are no other considerations than that of the pursuit of truth.”