Pressure mounts to act on Sewol ferry bill

This story appears in the Francis in Korea feature series. View the full series.

by Thomas C. Fox

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President Park Geun-hye is under pressure to break her silence and take action on the deadlocked “Sewol bill”  to deal with the aftermath of the sinking of the ferry that claimed more than 300 lives in April.

There are expectations that the besieged President may finally refer to the issue at a meeting with senior presidential secretaries today, according to a report  in The Korean Times.

The families of the victims of the ferry disaster want President Park to push for action on the stalled legislation because parliamentary efforts have failed to meet their demands.

The sinking of the ferry April 16th and the pleas of the families whose relatives were aboard became a focus of Pope Francis' five-day trip to South Korea.  One of the family members, a father whose 17-year-old daughter died in the tragedy, was on the 34th day of a hunger strike when he met with Francis on the plaza where he beatified 124 Korean martyrs. 

Francis met with families several times and wore a yellow ribbon signifying his support for the families. Asked by one reporter if he had entered South Korean politics, Francis answered he was responding to the suffering of hurting people. He said that responding to suffering comes above politics. 

The support of the pope in the cause of the families has brought additional pressure on President Park. The sinking of the overloaded ferry from which crew members escaped leaving nearly all passengers aboard has become a national tragedy and for government officials, a national scandal.

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