SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The father of a student killed in the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster was hospitalised on Friday, after conducting a 40-day hunger strike to raise public awareness about the so-called "special Sewol Bill".
Mr Kim Young Oh had been camping at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul since last month, surviving only on water and sodium. He reluctantly agreed to go with emergency medical staff to a local hospital earlier on Friday. "This does not mean I will end my hunger strike," Mr Kim said through a statement read aloud by Yoo Gyoung Geun, the spokesman of the bereaved families. "I will continue my strike as long as the special Sewol Bill remains unlegislated."
Mr Kim is rejecting all sources of food that doctors are recommending. He has received vitamin supplements, a doctor at the Seoul Metropolitan Dongbu Hospital said.
The Sewol Bill proposes to probe the government over its failure to save most of the passengers on the Sewol. More than 300 of the 476 onboard were killed. Two earlier investigations by prosecutors and lawmakers failed to convince victims' families that all the facts behind the disaster had been revealed.
The suggested legislation will create a prosecution team and a separate inquiry panel appointed by families and lawmakers. President Park Geun Hye has the final say on naming the head prosecutor.
Victims' families have urged lawmakers to redraft the Bill, however, saying they want more say in naming the chief prosecutor. The families fear a conflict of interest if the president appoints the top investigator of a team tasked with probing the government.
Senior officials, including members of the presidential staff and the Coast Guard, are suspected to have made fatal mistakes during rescue efforts. Suspicions that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) contributed to the disaster also arose after documents showing the spy agency had partially managed the Sewol before the accident surfaced in July. NIS officials deny any foul play.
The special Sewol Bill sits in limbo at the National Assembly. Lawmakers are hesitant to pass the Bill, with victims' families fiercely demanding legislators rewrite it.