Law Enforcement Uncovered Only Its Own Ineptitude

Yang Hoe-jung, the driver of ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon, who played a key role in his boss' escape, turned himself in to police on Tuesday. Also arrested has been Park Soo-kyung, a taekwondo referee and the daughter of a senior member of Yoo's crackpot cult, who helped his son Dae-gyun evade arrest for 97 days.

Prosecutors have now arrested no fewer than 142 people as part of their investigation of the April 16 ferry disaster, but Yoo, the central figure, was found dead as long ago as June 12, while his second son and eldest daughter remain overseas.

A prosecution spokesman said the domestic search for fugitives is now virtually over.

At the crux of the investigation into the Sewol tragedy was collusion and corruption between government agencies and shipping agencies, which led to gross oversight and lax enforcement of safety rules.

The probe was expected to uncover rotten practices and corruption in the shipping industry and to reveal gross ineptitude and negligence in the government's response to emergencies.

Prosecutors have succeeded only in part. Ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine, they found, went ahead with modifications to the Sewol despite the dangers it involved, while supervisory organizations waved them through after giving the operator’s report only a cursory glance.

But prosecutors have failed to expose more widespread collusion and corruption between government authorities and shipping agencies, who hired former high-ranking government officials to gain favor for their business. They also failed to get to the root of the ineptitude of the Coast Guard and government agencies that handled the disaster. Most of the people who were arrested were heads of minor agencies or low-ranking officials.

Prosecutors say Yoo was guilty of negligence for failing to address concerns voiced by his staff at Chonghaejin Marine that the Sewol had trouble with stability after the structural modifications and risked sinking due to cargo overload. Yoo is conveniently dead and cannot have his day in court, while prosecutors give the impression that they are trying to blame him for everything that happened.

Prosecutors and police pursued the investigation jointly for more than three months, but have come under criticism for being territorial and unable to work together. They ended up exposing the ineptitude of law enforcement agencies rather than finding out the truth about the disaster that the public is desperate to know.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 31, 2014 13:34 KST