A prominent relative of the victims of the ferry disaster ended his 46-day hunger strike, raising hopes of a breakthough in a political deadlock that has paralyzed parliamentary proceedings in Korea for months.
The fasting by Kim Young-oh , the father of one of 233 students killed in the April ferry sinking, has been the focal points of protests by victims' families demanding an independent investigation into the circumstances behind the disaster.
"Although I decided to end the hunger strike, I will continue to protest until the special law is passed at the National Assembly. My goal is to build a country that is safe to live in. When I get better I will go back to Gwanghwamun Square."
The families want a committee in charge of the probe to be given investigative powers, but rival parties have been unable to come to terms on an agreement that satisfies all sides.
The bereaved families say the end of Kim's hunger strike is not indicative of any progress being made in negotiations, and that their protest will continue.
But the end of Kim's fasting is raising hopes that differences will be bridged.
The ruling Saenuri Party is most optimistic.
Ruling party leaders held a second round of talks with representatives of the victims' families on Wednesay and reported progress.
Another meeting is scheduled for next Monday.
The talks are taking place with a newfound sense of urgency.
The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has boycotted all parliamentary activities in protest at the ruling party's refusal to give bereaved family members a greater say in negotiations over a bill that would probe the causes of the ferry accident.
The ruling and opposition parties have reached agreement on the legislation on two previous occasions, but both drafts were rejected by the Sewol-ho ferry families.
Ji Myung-kil, Arirang News.