Seoul, May 20 (): In a televised address, South Korean President Park Geun-hye broke up and burst into tears on Monday when she formally apologized for a ferry disaster that killed about 300 passengers, mostly school children. She said she would break up the coast guard for failing in its duties and a new safety agency would handle any rescue duties.
During the televised news conference, Park asked the experts and politicians to sit down together to discuss all subjects related to the maritime tragedy that took hundreds of lives in the sea off the south-western island of Jindo.
Park vowed extensive reforms to be implemented to improve oversight, as well as strong punishment for businesses and officials whose negligence had endangered public safety.
Park said a 20-year-old vessel was bought and refurbished to add excessive capacity, then it was loaded with much more cargo than allowed with a false reporting on weight, but not a single person in the position to supervise stopped any of it.
The disaster of Sewol ferry on April 16 has become the biggest political crisis of Ms Park’s 15-month tenure as President. She has been affected much by the angry countrywide outcry over the response of the government to the worst civilian maritime disaster of South Korea in a period 20 years and the apparently ineffective and slow rescue operation.
Huge public anger aroused due to the lax regulatory mistake and malpractice that resulted in the ferry accident, and also at the let-down of the emergency services to avert the deaths of most people on board, in spite of the fact that the ship took more than two hours to sink.
At least 286 people on board the Sewol were killed and 18 are missing. Only 172 people were rescued, with the rest assumed to have drowned. Of the passengers, 339 were children and their teachers who were on an educational tour from a high school on the outskirts of Seoul.
(with inputs from vision.org)