Seoul (AsiaNews) - The families of the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster "have nothing against the Pope, who will certainly bring great comfort to our grief. But we can not abandon this sit-in, we can not leave: the government must listen to our voice and pass a law that really punishes those responsible for the tragedy that killed our children", Pillkyu Hwang, spokesman for the group that brings together all those who have lost a loved one in the sinking of the ferry tells AsiaNews.
On 16 April, more than 300 people - including many young students on a school trip - drowned off the island of Cheju after the Sewol ferry overturned for reasons yet to be clarified. According to the survivors and the parents of the victims, the government did not intervene in an appropriate manner to save those who were on board and - after almost 4 months - has not yet opened an investigation to establish responsibility and punish the guilty. A special law on the incident has been described as "inadequate" because that does not include manslaughter and does not imply liability for the Coastguard.
Currently the group are based at the beginning of the avenue that leads to Gwanghwamun Square, the "heart" of Seoul, where the Pope will beatify 124 Korean martyrs on 16th August (Pictured), from where they are calling for "truth and justice" from the government headed by Park Geun-hye, which so far has failed to respond. The authorities have ordered the families to dismantle their sit-in by this evening to "prepare the area for the Mass": In response, during a public meeting at 2pm (local time), the representatives of the group have made it clear that they will continue the sit-in protest until August 16th.
"We have no intention of disrupting the ceremony that will take place here" - explains Hwang. "Indeed, we have the utmost respect for what is going to take place, for the Pope and the martyrs of the Catholic Church. We have sent a letter to the Pope and we know he wants to meet us, probably in Daejeon after Mass on August 15. But we follow him with love, and we will also be there on his arrival in Incheon and during the closing Mass for the Asian Youth Day on August 17. We repeat this is not an attempt to get free publicity, or a desire to take center stage, we just hope that he can help, but most of all we value his work and want him to know".
However, he concludes, "because of this respect for him, we can not dismantle everything. The Pope teaches love for family and respect for truth: if we abandon everything, it would be a slap in the face to the memory of our children and it would mean giving up our fight for what is right. We are confident that the Pope will understand us".(VFP)