MAY 19, 2013 — President Park Geun-hye of South Korea today made a televised "heartfelt apology" for having failed to prevent the sinking of the ferry Sewol on April 16 and for the Coast Guard's mishandling of rescue operations.
"The ultimate responsibility lies with me, the president," she said.
She said that the Coast Guard had "failed in its duty to carry out the rescue operation" and that, after serious consideration, she had "decided to dismantle" the agency.
"The investigation and information roles will be transferred to the police while the rescue and salvage operation and ocean security roles will be transferred to the department for national safety which will be newly established," she said.
She also declared a war against South Korea's culture of "kkiri kkiri," with its revolving doors and ties between businesses and government regulators, saying it had led to lax regulatory enforcement and an easy acceptance of poor safety standards.
To break up what she called the "bureaucratic mafia" of officials taking jobs in the industries they used to regulate, Ms. Park said she would revise laws to tighten the screening of officials looking for private-sector jobs after retirement.
Ms. Park said she would send bills to the National Assembly, which her party controls, to make the changes she proposes.
She will also propose a special law to allow the government to search and confiscate the assets of Chonghaejin Marine Company, the operator of the ferry, and the family that controls it.