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Suspicions re-emerge over '7 missing hours'

<span>Bereaved family members of the Sewol ferry disaster victims and members of civic groups demand President Park Geun-hye reveal the truth about the sinking, including where she was during the first seven hours after the accident, as well as for her to take responsibility for the scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil, during a press conference at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap</span><br /><br />
Bereaved family members of the Sewol ferry disaster victims and members of civic groups demand President Park Geun-hye reveal the truth about the sinking, including where she was during the first seven hours after the accident, as well as for her to take responsibility for the scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil, during a press conference at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap

By Kim Bo-eun


The unraveling influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye's confidant Choi Soon-sil is again raising questions about the President's "seven missing hours" in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, 2014.

Suspicions and rumors link Choi with the unknown whereabouts of Park, with some even saying the accident was related to a sacrificial ritual.

The President was absent during the crucial first seven hours of the ferry's sinking, which killed more than 300 passengers on board, mostly high school students on a school excursion.

Cheong Wa Dae has never given a clear explanation about what the President was doing during those hours, just repeating she was in her office working. This prompted public outrage and demands for the truth behind the accident.

At the time of the Sewol disaster, there were rumors that the President had been with her former aide Chung Yoon-hoi, who is Choi's former husband. Choi was barely known to the public at that time.

Tatsuya Kato, former Seoul bureau chief of Sankei Shimbun, wrote a column based on the rumor, alleging the two were in a romantic relationship. He was indicted on defamation charges and later acquitted.

With the Choi scandal emerging, new rumors are spreading now that Park was with Chung, but for a different purpose related to Choi's father.

Choi is the daughter of the President's late mentor Choi Tae-min, who is believed to be founder of a fringe religious group called Yongsaenggyo, or the Church of Eternal Life.

The elder Choi approached Park after her mother Yuk Young-soo was assassinated in 1974, while her father Park Chung Hee served as President.

He is rumored to have told Park that he had been ordered by the spirit of her mother to protect and guide her. There is speculation that Park had been under his control as a follower of Yongsaenggyo.

The rumors now say the ferry accident was a part of a cult ritual and the victims were "offerings."

Moon Yong-sik, a former member of the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, posted the rumors on social media last week.

"Choi Tae-min died in 1994 on the 21st day of the third month of the lunar calendar. The 20th anniversary of his death was April 14, 2014, according to the solar calendar. Family members had to perform a rite marking the 20th anniversary of Choi's death, but Sunday was not appropriate, so the rite was performed on April 16," he posted.

"Chung Yoon-hoi at the time was meeting with a shaman near Cheong Wa Dae. It could be possible that Park, Choi and Chung were performing a rite at the same time and place _ which is simply appalling."

The bereaved family members of the Sewol disaster victims and civic group members held a press conference, Tuesday, demanding the President step down as she is seen as responsible for the government's belated response during the crucial hours of the accident. They also urged the government to unveil the truth over her whereabouts during the first seven hours of the accident and what caused it.

"Suspicions over the President's seven missing hours are snowballing," a bereaved family member said at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul.

"The administration must swiftly enable on independent counsel investigation into the disaster and hold the President responsible for the tragic consequences of her absence at that time."



Korean Language

서울 도심 '대통령 퇴진' 집회·행진…"12일까지 매일 진행"

평일에도 서울 도심서 이른바 '최순실 게이트'와 관련해 박근혜 대통령의 하야를 요구하는 집회와 행진이 이어졌다.

'최순실 게이트'와 관련해 박근혜 대통령의 퇴진·하야를 촉구하는 대학가·시민단체 시국선언은 1주일째 계속됐다.

민중총궐기 투쟁본부는 1일 오후 7시 서울 종로구 청계광장에서 주최측 추산 1천명(경찰 추산 900명)이 참석한 가운데 '박근혜 대통령 퇴진 시국촛불' 집회를 열었다. 

이들은 집회에서 민주주의를 어지럽혔다며 박 대통령이 즉시 하야해야 한다고 주장하고, 청계로와 종로를 통해 남인사마당을 거쳐 북인사마당까지 행진한 뒤 해산했다.

이들은 이날 오후 2시 같은 장소에서 박 대통령 퇴진을 위한 시국농성에 돌입하며 '민중총궐기'가 예정된 12일까지 매일 저녁 촛불행진을 할 계획이라고 밝혔다. 

 

민주노총 금속노조·화학섬유연맹과 한국노총 금속노련·화학노련 등 양대노총 제조부문 공동투쟁본부도 공동 성명을 내 박 대통령의 퇴진과 현 정권이 추진한 '노동개악' 중단을 촉구했다.

역사학회와 한국사연구회 등 역사학계 47개 학회·단체는 '왕조시대에서조차 쉽게 일어날 수 없는 일이 자행됐다는 사실에 역사학계는 경악하지 않을 수 없다'며 '박 대통령과 관련자는 국민 앞에 모든 진실을 밝히고 역사교과서 국정화 등 역사교육을 퇴행시키는 일체 정책을 중단하라'고 요구했다.
대학·청년 YWCA 전국연합회와 대학 YMCA전국연맹도 시국선언문을 발표하고 '여왕처럼 국민 위에 군림한다면 대통령이 아니다'라면서 퇴진을 촉구했다.

4·16세월호참사 가족협의회와 4·16연대도 광화문광장에서 시국선언을 발표해 '헌정 파탄의 책임을 물어 대통령이 즉각 퇴진해야 하는 것은 물론, 세월호참사 당시 '대통령의 7시간' 공백이 불러온 참혹한 결과에 엄중한 책임을 져야 할 것'이라고 주장했다.

이들은 가토 다쓰야(加藤達也) 전 일본 산케이신문 서울지국장이 '검찰조사 당시 검찰은 최태민과 최순실에 대해 나에게 집요하게 물었다'고 말한 사실을 언급하며 세월호 침몰 당시 대통령의 7시간이 최순실 국정개입과 관련한 공백이 아니냐는 의혹을 제기했다.

숙명여대 교수 105명은 시국선언문을 발표하고 '국기문란 행위를 수사해야 할 검찰은 국민의 신뢰를 잃은 지 오래'라면서 '국회가 결정하는 특검으로 대통령을 포함한 관련자들이 어떤 예외도 없이 조사와 처벌을 받아야 한다'고 강조했다.

동덕여대 총학생회는 시국선언문에서 '박 대통령은 진실하지 않은 몇 마디 사과와 주요 인사를 사퇴시키는 꼬리 자르기로는 이 사태를 수습할 수 없다는 것을 알아야 한다'고 비판했다.

숭실대 총학생회와 교수협의회, 직원 노조는 이날 오후 학생회관 앞에서 기자회견을 열고 '비선실세의 부정부패에 대해 성역없는 수사가 이뤄져야 한다'고 요구했다.

청년단체 '청년하다'는 지난달 26일 이화여대와 서강대를 시작으로 확산한 대학생 시국선언이 이날을 기준으로 100건을 돌파했다고 밝혔다. 이 단체는 페이스북(www.facebook.com/2030hada)에 대학생 시국선언 상황을 지도로 정리하고 있다.

보수단체 역시 현 시국을 비판했다. 다만 이들은 대통령 하야 요구 등에는 선을 그었다.

'바른사회시민회의'는 성명을 내고 '비선에 의한 국정농단은 심각한 국기문란 사태로, 한 치의 의혹도 남기지 말고 진실을 규명해야 한다'고 주장했다.

보수 원로들의 모임인 '새로운 한국을 위한 국민운동'은 이날 오전 서울 중구 프레스센터에서 기자회견을 열고 '박 대통령은 새누리당을 탈당해 거국 중립내각을 구성하고 모든 조사에 협조하라'고 촉구했다. (연합뉴스)



<span>Bereaved family members of the Sewol ferry disaster victims and members of civic groups demand President Park Geun-hye reveal the truth about the sinking, including where she was during the first seven hours after the accident, as well as for her to take responsibility for the scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil, during a press conference at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap</span><br /><br />
Bereaved family members of the Sewol ferry disaster victims and members of civic groups demand President Park Geun-hye reveal the truth about the sinking, including where she was during the first seven hours after the accident, as well as for her to take responsibility for the scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil, during a press conference at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap

By Kim Bo-eun


The unraveling influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye's confidant Choi Soon-sil is again raising questions about the President's "seven missing hours" in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, 2014.

Suspicions and rumors link Choi with the unknown whereabouts of Park, with some even saying the accident was related to a sacrificial ritual.

The President was absent during the crucial first seven hours of the ferry's sinking, which killed more than 300 passengers on board, mostly high school students on a school excursion.

Cheong Wa Dae has never given a clear explanation about what the President was doing during those hours, just repeating she was in her office working. This prompted public outrage and demands for the truth behind the accident.

At the time of the Sewol disaster, there were rumors that the President had been with her former aide Chung Yoon-hoi, who is Choi's former husband. Choi was barely known to the public at that time.

Tatsuya Kato, former Seoul bureau chief of Sankei Shimbun, wrote a column based on the rumor, alleging the two were in a romantic relationship. He was indicted on defamation charges and later acquitted.

With the Choi scandal emerging, new rumors are spreading now that Park was with Chung, but for a different purpose related to Choi's father.

Choi is the daughter of the President's late mentor Choi Tae-min, who is believed to be founder of a fringe religious group called Yongsaenggyo, or the Church of Eternal Life.

The elder Choi approached Park after her mother Yuk Young-soo was assassinated in 1974, while her father Park Chung Hee served as President.

He is rumored to have told Park that he had been ordered by the spirit of her mother to protect and guide her. There is speculation that Park had been under his control as a follower of Yongsaenggyo.

The rumors now say the ferry accident was a part of a cult ritual and the victims were "offerings."

Moon Yong-sik, a former member of the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, posted the rumors on social media last week.

"Choi Tae-min died in 1994 on the 21st day of the third month of the lunar calendar. The 20th anniversary of his death was April 14, 2014, according to the solar calendar. Family members had to perform a rite marking the 20th anniversary of Choi's death, but Sunday was not appropriate, so the rite was performed on April 16," he posted.

"Chung Yoon-hoi at the time was meeting with a shaman near Cheong Wa Dae. It could be possible that Park, Choi and Chung were performing a rite at the same time and place _ which is simply appalling."

The bereaved family members of the Sewol disaster victims and civic group members held a press conference, Tuesday, demanding the President step down as she is seen as responsible for the government's belated response during the crucial hours of the accident. They also urged the government to unveil the truth over her whereabouts during the first seven hours of the accident and what caused it.

"Suspicions over the President's seven missing hours are snowballing," a bereaved family member said at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul.

"The administration must swiftly enable on independent counsel investigation into the disaster and hold the President responsible for the tragic consequences of her absence at that time."

Kim Bo-eun bkim@koreatimes.co.kr

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