Rival parties halt parliamentary activity amid ferry tragedy
SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- Rival parties suspended all political activities Thursday as they focused on dealing with the aftermath of a deadly ferry sinking off South Korea's southwestern coast.
The 6,325-ton ferry Sewol sank Wednesday morning en route from the western port city of Incheon to the southern resort island of Jeju, killing nine passengers aboard. The death toll is feared to rise as more than 200 other passengers remain accounted for. A total of 179 others have been rescued.
The cause of the sinking remains unclear, but experts have said the ship may have hit an underwater rock.
As search operations resumed at daybreak, the ruling Saenuri Party halted all parliamentary activities and ordered their lawmakers to act with restraint and refrain from drinking or playing golf.
The party also set up a special committee to handle the aftermath of the sinking.
"We will seek all possible measures at the party level to ensure the accident is handled properly," Rep. Shim Jae-chul, the head of the committee, said during a party meeting. "We will review everything from the starting point, including regulations for safe navigation and all legal and technical aspects."
The main opposition party, New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), also held a meeting of a special committee comprised of members of relevant parliamentary committees.
The special committee members called on party lawmakers to exercise restraint when posting comments about the accident on social networking services, party officials said.
The rival parties suspended all campaigning for the June 4 local elections for the second straight day, with the ruling party postponing primaries scheduled for Friday and Sunday.