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Cheong Wa Dae requests probe into alleged falsification of Sewol reports

Oct. 13, 2017 - 10:21 By Yonhap
The presidential office on Friday requested the prosecution to investigate the alleged manipulation of official documents by former leader Park Geun-hye's aides to lessen her responsibility for the government's mishandling of the deadly sinking of a passenger ship three years ago, a Cheong Wa Dae official said.

The formal request was filed with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The move comes one day after Cheong Wa Dae announced the discovery of documents from the Park administration that showed the government may have manipulated original reports on the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry in an apparent attempt to prevent any blame from falling on the ousted president.


The documents included a daily journal of the crisis management office, which indicated the first report of the accident to Park was made at 9:30 a.m. the day of the accident that left 304 people killed or missing, instead of 10 a.m. as earlier claimed by Park and her aides.

"The reason they pushed back the time of the first report to the president by half an hour appears to have been an attempt to reduce the time between the first report and Park's first order, said to have been made at around 10:15 a.m.," Chief of Staff Im Jong seok said Thursday.

Im noted that the 45-minute gap between the first report and the first order may be seen as a failure.

"Considering that every minute mattered on the day of the accident, it makes us think a lot," he said.

The documents also showed Park's top security adviser Kim Kwan-jin may have ordered an illegal revision of the government manual on crisis management to place the responsibility of handling accidents, such as the Sewol ferry sinking, on the Ministry of the Interior and Safety instead of Cheong Wa Dae as originally stated.

Im said the revision was made in July 2014, shortly after then-presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon testified before the National Assembly that Park and the presidential office did not have responsibility for dealing with the tragic accident in the first place.

Cheong Wa Dae officials have said the revision of the government guidelines for crisis management and then delivering them to all government offices may constitute falsification of official documents and abuse of power. 

Such an amendment requires legal procedures, including a review and approval by the government legislation ministry.

Those subject to prosecution investigation included the former presidential chief of staff and Kim Kwan-jin, then head of the National Security Office (NSO) and vice chairman of the NSC, a Cheong Wa Dae official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Im earlier said the former NSO chief is believed to have ordered what he called an "illegal" revision of the government manual on crisis management.

The presidential office also asked the prosecution to question Shin In-ho, then head of the crisis management office at Cheong Wa Dae, and others involved in the alleged manipulation of official documents and crafting false reports.

"What exactly they may have violated will be determined by the prosecution following their investigation," the official said. (Yonhap)