South Korea's president wants coast guard disbanded following ferry disaster

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye cries as she delivers a speech to the nation at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul May 19, 2014. YONHAP, REUTERS

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea's President Park Geun-hye said Monday she will push to disband the coast guard in the wake of last month's ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing, calling its rescue operations after the disaster a failure.

The coast guard has been under growing public criticism over its alleged poor search and rescue work after the ferry Sewol sank on April 16. Most of the victims were students from a single high school near Seoul who were traveling to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

"The coast guard's rescue operations were virtually a failure," Park said in a nationally televised speech.

Park said she will push for legislation that would transfer the coast guard's responsibilities to the National Police Agency and a new government body she plans to establish.

Park also again apologized for the government's handling of the sinking, one of the deadliest disasters in decades in South Korea. "The final responsibility for not properly dealing with this incident is placed on me," she said. Park has apologized over the incident at least three times.

About one month after the sinking, 286 bodies have been retrieved but 18 others are still missing. Some 172 people, including 22 of the ship's 29 crew members, survived.

Prosecutors last week indicted the ferry's 15 crew members tasked with navigating the ship, four on homicide charges.

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