Apology for South Korean ferry disaster

Last updated 13:15 19/05/2014

DISASTER: Helicopters try to rescue students from the sinking ferry as a lifeboat floats nearby.

South Korea PM
IN GRIEF: South Korean President Park Geun Hye at a Mass in memory of victims of the sunken Sewol ferry.

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South Korean President Park Geun Hye has formally apologised for the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, mostly school children, saying she will break up the coast guard that failed in the rescue mission.

The coast guard has been under growing public criticism over its search and rescue work after the ferry Sewol sank on April 16.

''The coast guard's rescue operations were virtually a failure,'' Park said in a nationally televised address.

Park 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 apologised 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 apologised over the incident at least three times.

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

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

- Reuters and AP

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