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Military unit suspected of involvement in ferry sinking aftermath

All Headlines 11:47 July 02, 2018

SEOUL, July 2 (Yonhap) -- The Defense Security Command is suspected of involvement in the handling of the aftermath of a 2014 ferry disaster, a defense ministry team tasked with investigating the unit's alleged political interference said Monday.

The team found that the command ran a 60-member task force for nearly six months from April 2014 for a range of activities, including an apparent mission to foster public opinion in favor of the then-conservative government.

The team has been looking into the allegations that the command's operatives were mobilized to post online comments in favor of the former conservative governments in a breach of their duty to remain politically neutral.

"We have found documents that show that the command had systematically been involved in the handling of the ferry Sewol case beyond its activity to manipulate online public opinion," the team said in a statement.

It said that the command checked the situations regarding the families of the victims of the maritime disaster, as well as parliamentary sentiment, and explored ways to persuade the families to end rescue operations.

Moreover, the task force allegedly offered related information to right-wing civic groups upon their request so that they could stage protests to counter rallies conducted by progressive groups critical of the then-conservative government.

The ferry sank in waters off the country's southwestern island of Jindo on April 16, 2014, leaving more than 300 passengers dead or missing.

The case posed a major political setback for the then-Park Geun-hye government, as criticism persisted that, if the case had been promptly and properly handled, many lives would have been saved.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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