Taxpayer Could Foot Ferry Disaster Bill, Gov't Warns

The government on Sunday warned taxpayers may end up footing most of the cost of the search and rescue operation following the April 16 ferry disaster unless the National Assembly passes a special law penalizing the operator.

After an emergency meeting, Vice Minister of Strategy and Finance Choo Kyung-ho said the government's wants Chonghaejin Marine and owner Yoo Byung-eon’s family to foot the bill for the search operation and damage incurred by the ferry accident.

But Choo added that if lawmakers fail to ratify the special law, the government may not be able to prevent Yoo's family members from hiding his assets or registering them under other names.

Prosecutors have filed five separate applications to the Incheon district court to freeze Yoo's assets. But so far the court authorized the freeze of only around W121.9 billion (US$1=W1,014).

Under current law, a criminal's assets passed on to his spouse or children can be seized by the government only if they inherited the assets knowing that they were amassed illegally. The special law would revise those rules, making it possible for authorities to seize a criminal's assets even if his family had no knowledge of their source.

The government estimates the cost of the search operation and compensation at around W600 billion. / Sep. 01, 2014 09:45 KST