Rival political parties wrangled Wednesday over whether President Park Geun-hye's apology over the Sewol ferry disaster was sincere enough after families of victims dismissed the remarks as "informal."
Park apologized during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, saying the government failed to prevent the disaster and bungled its response to the sinking. She also said she was "sorry to the people and heavy hearted that many precious lives were lost."
The apology came 13 days after the 6,825-ton Sewol sank off the country's southwest coast, leaving 302 people dead or missing. As of Wednesday, 210 people were confirmed dead.
Families of the victims demanded Park issue a public apology, saying "an informal apology is not an apology."
"Are Cabinet members the only people to President Park, when there are 50 million people (in the country)?" they asked in a press conference on Tuesday.
The families' complaint prompted the main opposition party to step up its attack on the government Wednesday.
"We had hoped that it would be a comfort to the people, but the president's apology ended up angering the people and the victims' families further," Kim Han-gil, a co-leader of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said during a party meeting.
"If (Park) had said that she, too, is a sinner and that she feels infinite responsibility, that could have provided at least some comfort."
The ruling Saenuri Party criticized the rival party for using the situation as an excuse to attack the president. Some raised suspicions that the opposition party was trying to gain leverage ahead of the June 4 local elections.
"Recovery efforts are still under way, so we should concentrate on that, rather than raise a political dispute over the president's apology," Choi Kyoung-hwan, the floor leader of the ruling party, said in a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency.
"After the recovery efforts are over, there will be comprehensive legal and institutional modifications as well as personnel reform."
Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said it is "unfortunate and regrettable" that the families rejected Park's apology, stressing that those were his personal remarks, not the view of the presidential office. (Yonhap)