In a televised address to the nation on Monday, President Park apologized for her government's handling of the ferry disaster and underlined the failure of the coastguard's immediate response to the tragedy. The passenger ferry capsized on April 16, killing more than 300 people, most of them high school students.
"The coast guard's rescue operations were virtually a failure," Park said, adding that she has decided to dismantle the coastguard. She said its responsibilities would be handed over to police and a newly created ministry of national safety.
"As the president responsible for the lives and safety of South Koreans, I offer my sincere apology for all the suffering inflicted upon the people," Park said.
"The ultimate responsibility of the poor response to this accident lies with me," she added. Park had previously formally apologized over the incident several times.
The captain of the ferry, along with three other crew members, have been indicted on homicide charges on suspicion of abandoning the vessel as it sank. Prosecutors also charged the defendants with failing to notify the 476 passengers to leave the ferry.
The tragedy has had a strong impact on the East Asian nation. The tragic loss of life has angered many in the country who view the incident, and its handling, as a sign of corrupt practices and negligence in the public safety sector.
The ferry capsized while en route from the South Korean mainland to the holiday island of Jeju. More than one month after the accident, 286 bodies have been retrieved from the sunken vessel with 18 still unaccounted for. Some 172 people, including 22 of the ship's 29 crew members, survived.
hc/crh (Reuters, AFP, AP)