S. Korea’s president wants to disband coast guard
Published: May 19, 2014 08:22AM
Updated: May 19, 2014 11:55AM
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South Korean President Park Geun-hye prays during a serves to pay tribute to victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a Catholic church in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, May 18, 2014. The ferry disaster left more than 200 people dead, with others still missing. Government and civilian divers are fighting rapid currents as they try to retrieve the remaining bodies. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Do Kwang-hwan) KOREA OUT

Seoul, South Korea • South Korea’s president said Monday she will push to disband the coast guard in the wake of last month’s ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing, calling its rescue a failure.

The coast guard has been under growing public criticism over its alleged poor search and rescue work after the ferry Sewol sank April 16. Most of the victims were students from a single high school near Seoul who were traveling to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

“The coast guard’s rescue operations were virtually a failure,” President Park Geun-hye said in a televised speech.

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 apologized 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 apologized over the disaster at least three times.

About 286 bodies have been retrieved but 18 others are still missing, and 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.