PM urges efforts to reform safety management

SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- The prime minister called for all-out efforts to revamp the country's safety management system Tuesday as the country is struggling to deal with the aftermath of last month's deadly sinking of a ferry off the southwest coast.

The call by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won came one day after President Park Geun-hye announced a plan to dissolve the Coast Guard, which has been at the center of public criticism for failing to take quick action in the initial stages of the maritime accident.

The sinking of the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol on April 16 left more than 300 people, mostly teenage students, dead or missing, fueling widespread public criticism that more lives could have been saved if the Coast Guard and other government agencies took proper initial rescue action.

In response to the criticism, Park unveiled in the Monday address the plan to dismantle the maritime police and transfer its rescue function to another national safety body that is yet to be established.

"I ask all the Cabinet members and public officials to muster their utmost efforts in pushing for the follow-up measures with the determination that this is the last chance to reform the country's safety system," Chung said at a Cabinet meeting.

The prime minister also called for parliamentary efforts to pass a number of bills designed to prevent a repeat of similar tragic accidents mainly by rooting out corruption among public officials.

He also directed a revision of the criminal law so that those who cause deadly accidents can be punished more severely, according to the Prime Minister's Office.

"The future of South Korea depends on how well the country deals with and correct problems the sinking of the ferry Sewol revealed," the prime minister said, calling for extra attention to the corruption among civil workers.

In a meeting of vice ministers, the government decided to submit bills to dissolve the Coast Guard and improve public sector workers' ethics to the parliament for approval by June.

Other follow-up measures, including an overhaul of the maritime and home ministries as well as new regulations on the employment of retired high-level government officials, will also be finalized by June, the government said.

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