Police Try to Quell Rumors About Ferry Disaster


Families of ferry disaster victims hurry to a morgue after reading descriptions on an electronic board of a newly found body, at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Jeolla Province on Wednesday. Families of ferry disaster victims hurry to a morgue after reading descriptions on an electronic board of a newly found body, at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Jeolla Province on Wednesday.

Police are investigating 56 cases of online defamation and unfounded accusations, a National Police Agency spokesman said Wednesday, in an effort to slow the hyperactive rumor mill surrounding the ferry disaster.

Most of the comments being investigated claim the government is manipulating information about rescue operations in an attempt to cast a favorable light on its efforts.

"The government is just trying to win votes in the election and is leaving a trail of dead bodies behind," said one comment. Another said, "The National Intelligence Service is probably behind this accident."

Other posts claimed rescue operations ceased for three hours during President Park Geun-hye's visit to the scene, due to security concerns.

Some posts said a U.S. submarine caused the Sewol to sink, while others claim there was a collision with a Navy ship during Korea-U.S. military drills that caused the accident.

A Defense Ministry official said, "That area is not navigable by submarines and there were no military drills in the area at that time."

Sociologist Hyon Taik-soo said, "People who don't trust the government and media are spreading rumors based on their personal views for political purposes."

Meanwhile, investigators probing the ferry disaster have arrested a young woman who posed as a rescue diver and told a TV interviewer that government officials were blocking civilian divers from helping out and that some divers tried to talk to trapped passengers.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 24, 2014 11:19 KST