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S Korea's Park announces coastguard break-up

Park has made at least three apologies for the ferry disaster, promising to institute reforms and tackle corruption.

Last updated: 19 May 2014 02:09
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The April 16 disaster killed 286 people and 18 remain unaccounted for [EPA]

The president of South Korea has taken direct responsibility for a botched ferry rescue operation, promising to dismantle the coastguard for its shortcomings after a maritime disaster claimed hundreds of lives.

Park Geun-hye offered "a heartfelt apology for the pains the people have suffered" on Monday, adding: "The ultimate responsibility for failing to respond properly to this accident lies with me."

It is at least her third apology since the 6,825 tonne Sewol sank on April 16, but it is the first time she has wholly shouldered the blame for the response to the accident.

Most of the victims were students and the majority of these were from Danwon High School in Ansan, a city south of the capital Seoul. They were on a school trip to the island resort of Jeju.

"I have decided to dismantle the coastguard," Park said in a televised address. "The coastguard's rescue operations were virtually a failure."

"It is our duty to reform and transform the country so that these lives were not lost for nothing. Now is the time to leave frustration behind and move forward. We have to set the country upright and transform it.

"I will stake my political life on correcting the wrong practices that have plagued our country for so long and to create a new republic of Korea," she said. 

According to the Korea Herald, the death toll as of Sunday was 286 and the number of people unaccounted for was 18.

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