By Kwon Mee-yoo
From funerals for the dead to the trials of those accused of violent attacks on police officers, nothing has been resolved six months after six people were killed in a clash between tenants and riot police in Yongsan, Seoul.
With the government and judiciary remaining hesitant to take steps toward mediation, conflict is deepening among the involved parties ― the squatters, the authorities, and the redevelopment committee.
On Jan. 20, six people, including a police officer, were killed in a fire during a raid to evict protestors from a building that was going to be redeveloped. The tenants had been protesting against the project in central Seoul.
The surviving family members have requested President Lee Myung-bak to issue an apology and punish police officers responsible for an operation they claim to have been ``too hasty.'' However, the government is sticking to its position that the tenants caused the fire and deaths.
The bodies of the tenants are being kept in the mortuary of Soon Chun Hyang Hospital, central Seoul, with the funerals yet to be held.
The redevelopment association is offering to negotiate and has promised to pay some condolence money, but family members of the deceased are refusing to accept this. They insist that the government falsely accused the dead of being ``urban terrorists'' and should apologize for the deaths.
Family members of the victims say they will continue to fight until the government apologizes, the arrested are released and honors of the dead are restored. They are not paying for the use of hospital services over the last six months, a bill which has already topped 500 million won.
``I have spent countless nights without sleep. We cannot give up this fight even if it takes more than six years,'' said Yoo Young-sook, 48, the wife of the late Yoon Yong-heon, a tenant.
Twenty-four protesters were indicted for killing and injuring police officers by throwing Molotov cocktails. However, those trials have been put on hold.
The prosecutors are refusing to disclose some 3,000 pages of investigation records that are believed to contain details of the clash between the tenants and police. The lawyers for the tenants are requesting the prosecution to disclose the documents.
``Whether the police abused their power or not is at the core of this trial, and the investigation record regarding the police chain of command should be made public,'' said Kwon Young-guk, a lawyer for the tenants.
Police officers who directed the operation have either quit their job or have been transferred to other, irrelevant positions. For example, Kim Seok-ki, then chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and the commissioner general-designate of the National Police Agency, who approved the mobilization of the SWAT team, quit his position.
As the dispute shows no signs of abating, the family members and survivors are seeking to take stronger action. On Monday, the victims' families planned to move the bodies to Seoul Plaza and set up a memorial altar so that citizens could pay their respects, but police prevented this.