Telephone interview with Lee, Tae-Jong (June 5, 2014; TV Chosun, The Sniper Returned)
Anchor: We will contact the spokesman of the Korean Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship, known as the Salvation Sect; Mr. Lee Tae-Jong. Let us hear about current situation in Geumsuwon. Hello, Mr. Lee.
Anchor: How is it there in Geumsuwon right now?
Lee: Well, people are listening to the sermon in the main hall peacefully.
Anchor: The prosecutors assume that there are ‘Mother Kim’ and Yang Hoe-Jeong in Geumsuwon. Is that true?
Lee: It is not true as far as I know.
Anchor: So, does it mean that the prosecutors are getting a wrong point or lying?
Lee: No. If the prosecutors released such information in advance, wouldn’t people just flee?
Anchor: Some are saying the church members are divided into the hardliners and the moderates. Is that true?
Lee: We are not 'divided,’ but rather, we are a group of people that have different perspectives.
Anchor: The prosecutors say they will enter Geumsuwon again, and our attorney here, Mr. Park, says that the prosecutors were after Mr. Yoo last time they enter the Geumsuwon, so their entrance this time is not considered as a second attempt, since the prosecutors are after Mother Kim this time. What do you think about this comment?
Lee: Well, to us, it does not really matter whether it is their first or second time to enter Geumsuwon. We are just really curious about all the assumptions about ‘Mother Kim.’ We are curious who she is and whether the prosecutors would simply arrest all 58-year-old women whose last name is Kim. We are also curious why the prosecutors are not revealing who that person is specifically.
Anchor: So then, do you admit the existence of ‘Mother Kim’ itself?
Lee: I assume there are a lot of mothers who are 58 years old and whose last name is Kim. But there is nothing at all that we can confirm that such a person is leading the evasion.
Anchor: According to other media sources, there are some believers who say that they would burn themselves if the police forcibly enter Geumsuwon. What do you think?
Lee: I have not directly heard of any story regarding that. However, it is true that currently many people in the church are emotionally disturbed.
Anchor: Do you admit that Chonghaejin Marine committed illegal acts?
Lee: I am not sure because I am not able to confirm that with objective facts. But if Chonghaejin Marine committed unlawful acts, it has to be responsible with that. However, we hope that all the facts related to the cause of the Sewol accident are investigated fairly.
Anchor: Okay, but in the statement that the Salvation Sect gave previously, it says, “sinking of the ferry is Chonghaejin’s responsibility, but the Coast Guard is to blame for numerous deaths and casualties.” Do you still hold that opinion?
Lee: Well, the statement is based on the information released by the government. Hasn’t there been an analysis that only if the Coast Guard had managed the rescue operation properly, they could have saved all passengers? If that is so, something that could have been done easily was not done properly.
Anchor: Regarding that issue, some rescue experts have different opinions. Mr. Kim Sung-Wook here has a question for you.
Kim: Yes, let me ask one thing to Mr. Lee. In the statement, you said, “Chonghaejin is responsible for the sinking of the ferry, but the Coast Guard is responsible for deaths and casualties.” Then, does that mean that you do not feel morally responsible for the deaths of the 300 victims and those who are missing?
Lee: Of course we do. As a citizen of the country, I am very sorry that such a tragic accident happened. I hope we, the citizens of South Korea, all have a better awareness so that we can make a better society where such horrible accidents can be prevented.
Kim: If you feel moral responsibility, how could you make the statement that says “Chonghaejin is responsible for the sinking of the ferry, but the Coast Guard is responsible for deaths and casualties”?
Lee: I mean, we can think about it from a common sense point of view. It is now said by the Korean Coast Guard that the passengers ended up dying due to delayed rescue in the early stage despite the circumstance where all passengers could have been saved. I don’t think it is fair to make a direct comparison, judging whether the degree of seriousness of such failure in early rescue is not as great as the problem of corruption or accumulation of funds.
Kim: I will ask t one last thing. If a robber kills a person, is the robber's responsibility greater than the responsibility of police that could not stop the robber from murdering a person?
Lee: If you say the robber has a greater responsibility, then you mean Mr. Yoo is the robber, the killer of 300 people. Then can you take the responsibility for that statement?
Kim: Mr. Yoo has been received about 1 billion won annually from Chonghaejin Marine, and as a result, Chonghaejin had an operating loss of 760 million won per year while the company spent only 540,000 won for safety regulation. In this situation, hasn’t Mr. Yoo, the owner of Chonghaejin Marine, played a huge role in causing the accident?
Lee: You are saying that is the cause of the accident, but if they ever find anything, like a hole at the bottom of the ferry (hypothetically), then your entire assumption will become invalid. Right? Also, the real cause of the accident has not been clearly revealed yet. We are not saying that we do not take any responsibility. No conclusion has been made as to who should take the liability or to what degree. But such issues are neglected, and the entire media has already concluded that one person must take the responsibility. We just think it is not logical to blame one person, so we are saying people should be more reasonable.
Kim: I would like to make a reasonable and basic comment and finish. There are parties that take primary responsibility, and parties that take secondary responsibility. The primary responsibility is on the Yoo family and Chonghaejin Marine, according to the Prosecutors’ investigation—that is what the government has announced. The secondary responsibility should go to the Shipping Association that failed to oversee the ferry operator—maybe the government as well. But the primary responsibility—the greatest responsibility—goes to the Yoo family and Chonghaejin Marine, and that is what the government has officially concluded.
Lee: Well, if that’s your point, you are not including the captain and the crew members?
Kim: I will add that all crew members as well as the captain are included in the party that takes the primary responsibility.
Lee: Then do you think that Mr. Yoo takes the responsibility that is equivalent to that of the captain and the crew?
Kim: As I said previously, Mr. Yoo is the de facto owner of Chonghaejin Marine with employee number A99001, or employee No. 1 at the company. The internal resources have proven that Mr. Yoo is the chairman of Chonghaejin Marine. The Sewol ferry of Chonghaejin Marine is known to have had lots of problems. The ferry was overloaded; its cargo was not properly secured; and there were a lot of problems during its refurbishment. According to the investigation of the Prosecutors, Mr. Yoo is and has been aware of such problems. I’m repeating that is the conclusion made by the Prosecutors.
Lee: (Tries to respond but interrupted)
Anchor: Since we are running out of time, I will ask one final question and end the conversation. So, where is Mr. Yoo now?
Lee: That is not something that I can answer since I do not know. You have been talking about the responsibility of the Sewol accident. The important point is that the real cause of the accident has not yet been revealed, but even the President of the country has made a conclusion: the President has violated the law. Once the Maritime Safety Tribunal finishes the analysis and gets the result, then we would be able to make clear judgments. But that hasn’t even happened yet, but the Prosecutors have already announced their own conclusion. It is no different from concluding a case without verifying the evidence from the National Forensic Service. It won’t be too late to make a judgment after they analyze everything in detail. And the media is using unverified information and reporting as if that information were legitimate. I am sad that such media manipulation degrades Korea’s media and culture.
Anchor: Are you willing to come to the studio and have a fair debate in the future?
Lee: If conditions met, I would like to. But we the church will need to discuss first.
Anchor: Please feel free, and let us know anytime. Thank you for the interview.