President apologises for sinking

Children wait to pay tribute to the victims of Sewol at a group memorial altar in Ansan. Photo / AP
Children wait to pay tribute to the victims of Sewol at a group memorial altar in Ansan. Photo / AP

South Korean President Park Geun Hye has apologised for her Government's failure to combat systemic and regulatory "evils" blamed for the loss of about 300 lives in a ferry disaster.

Two days after her Prime Minister resigned over the tragedy, Park's comments are another attempt to defuse growing public anger about the April 16 sinking of the 6825-tonne Sewol.

"I don't know how to apologise for the failure to prevent this accident, and for the insufficient first response," Park said in a statement to her Cabinet that was broadcast on national television.

"I am sorry to the people and heavy-hearted that many precious lives were lost."

Park's Government has been widely criticised over perceived corruption and lax safety standards that may have led to the disaster, with claims that the ferry was overloaded and that the passenger list was inaccurate and incomplete.

Echoing words used by Chung Hong Won when he fell on his sword on Sunday, Park blamed systemic and regulatory failings for one of South Korea's worst-ever maritime tragedies.

Earlier, the President had travelled to Ansan, just south of Seoul, where she paid her respects at a memorial for the schoolchildren who died in the disaster. Of the 476 people on board, 325 were students from the same high school in Ansan. Only 75 of them were rescued. In a sign of the anger felt by relatives of the missing and the dead, there were shouted demands for her floral tribute to be removed from the shrine, and reports she had been jostled.

- AFP

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