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South Korean president plans to break up coastguard

By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 19, 2014, 16:56 Updated : May 19, 2014, 16:56
South Korea plans to break up its coastguard in the wake of the ferry disaster in which more than 300 people died, says President Park Geun-hye. In a televised address, Park apologized formally for the sinking.

A new safety agency would handle rescue duties, with investigative functions passing to the police, she said. The Sewol ferry disaster on 16 April killed 281 passengers, most of whom were high school students. Another 23 are still missing.

"The ultimate responsibility of the poor response to this accident lies with me," Park said. She said the coastguard had "failed to fulfil its original duties" and "had it actively carried out rescue efforts immediately after the accident"; more lives could have been saved.

Park added that in its current form, the coastguard would be unable to prevent another large-scale disaster. The president's office told agencies that her plans had to be approved by the National Assembly, in which her Saenuri party maintains a majority.

The planned disbanding of the coastguard one of several reforms the South Korean leader announced on Monday.

The president said she planned to increase restrictions on government officials taking up jobs related to their duties after retirement. The practice, also known as "bureaucratic mafia" in South Korea, is seen as fostering too-cozy ties between bureaucrats and regulators. The president also proposed establishing a committee to look into whether the Sewol ferry accident was caused by corruption and other irregularities.

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