South Korea’s president says she will push to disband coast guard over ferry disaster

South Korean President Park Geun-hye formally apologizes for the ferry disaster that killed about 300 passengers, mostly school children. (Reuters)
May 18

South Korea’s president said Monday that she will push to disband the coast guard in the wake of a ferry disaster last month that left more than 300 people dead or missing, calling its rescue operations after the disaster a failure.

The coast guard has been under growing public criticism of its alleged poor search-and-rescue work after the ferry Sewol sank on April 16. Most of the victims were students from a high school near Seoul who were traveling to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

“The coast guard’s rescue operations were virtually a failure,” President Geun-hye Park said in a nationally televised speech.

She said she will push for legislation that would transfer the coast guard’s responsibilities to the National Police Agency and a new government body she plans to establish.

Park also again apologized for the government’s handling of the sinking, one of the deadliest disasters in decades in South Korea. “The final responsibility for not properly dealing with this incident is placed on me,” she said. Park has apologized for the incident at least three times.

About one month after the sinking, 286 bodies have been retrieved and 18 people are still missing. About 172 people, including 22 of the ship’s 29 crew members, survived.

Prosecutors last week indicted the ferry’s 15 crew members who were tasked with navigating the ship, four on homicide charges.

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