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Park to address nation over ferry tragedy

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Published : 2014-05-18 21:03
Updated : 2014-05-18 22:04

President Park Geun-hye will address the nation in a nationally televised speech on Monday over the sinking of the ferry Sewol, her office said Sunday, as public anger continues to simmer over the government’s botched initial response.

She is expected to issue a public apology over the incident while revealing plans to revamp the nation’s deeply flawed security and emergency management system. Officials also said Park will announce plans to overhaul the bureaucratic system muddled with corruption.
Park prays at a Mass for the victims of the Sewol disaster and their bereaved families held at Myeongdong Cathedral in central Seoul on Sunday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

The public speech comes as rescue workers continue to search for the 18 still missing after the 6,825-ton ferry sank on April 16 off the country’s southwest coast. As of Sunday, 286 have been confirmed dead.

The Korean leader’s move, which would come 34 days after the fatal accident, was widely seen as an attempt to minimize the political fallout from the disaster ahead of the June local elections. The opposition bloc has attacked Park’s ruling Saenuri Party and urged voters to join them in “bringing the incompetent administration to justice.”

The public anger toward the government has intensified since a government probe found that the authorities failed to take appropriate measures in the early stages of the Sewol rescue operation. A series of corrupt practices by the ferry’s operator and its seemingly cozy link with the authorities was also uncovered.

In a move to soothe the intensifying public anger, Park met with relatives of the victims Friday and made a direct apology. She also attended a mass at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul on Sunday to pay her respects to the victims and console the bereaved families.

According to Park’s spokesman Min Kyung-wook, the president has pledged to work with those in religious circles to help the nation and its people move forward.

After Monday’s speech, Park will depart for the United Arab Emirates for a two-day trip to attend an opening ceremony of the first reactor constructed by a Korean consortium, Min said.

She had initially planned to visit other countries in the Middle East as well, but the tour was shortened because of the Sewol incident.

By Yoon Min-sik and news reports (minsikyon@heraldcorp.com)

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