TIME South Korea

South Korean President Vows to Disband Coast Guard Over Ferry Disaster

Lee Jin-man—AP Passersby at a Seoul train station watch a live television broadcast of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's speech to the nation on the Sewol ferry tragedy on May 19, 2014

In a tearful, televised apology — and facing vociferous criticism from political opponents — President Park Geun-hye says the coast guard failed those who drowned in the Sewol tragedy and must be done away with as part of a regulatory overhaul

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye vowed Monday to disband the national coast guard, as part of a reformist push and “great transformation,” that she said the country was owed after hundreds of high school students died in April’s Sewol ferry disaster.

Park’s nationally televised speech was her most heartfelt apology so far, and a reflection of the political crisis the tragedy has spawned. Over the weekend, police detained over 200 people attempting to march to her office to call for her resignation.

The outrage has been caused by what critics feel was a slow initial response to the sinking of the Sewol, as well as the systemic failings that allowed the ferry to set sail despite being dangerously overloaded.

Park said the coast guard had failed to do enough to save the students on board the ill-fated ferry, and that their duties would either be transferred to the national police force or into a new safety agency she intends to set up.

The tearful Park also declared a war on deeply entrenched ties between businesses and government regulators, which many say has led to lax regulatory enforcement.


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