Cheong Wa Dae Mulls Official Apology for Ferry Disaster

President Park Geun-hye has decided to make a public apology over the botched handling of the ferry disaster but is still mulling the timing and format.

Cheong Wa Dae officials had been considering a presidential apology for some time as the next step after the resignation of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won.

But they are divided about the timing. One official said, "Now that the prime minister has stepped down, the president's apology should take place soon." But another said, "There are still around 100 passengers missing, so the president should only step in front of the camera after search operations progress a bit further."

Visitors wait in line to mourn the victims of the ferry disaster in front of City Hall in Seoul on Monday evening. /News 1 Visitors wait in line to mourn the victims of the ferry disaster in front of City Hall in Seoul on Monday evening. /News 1

But it is likely to Park will apologize in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Ahn Cheol-soo of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy urged Park on Sunday to make a public apology, and lawmakers with the ruling Saenuri Party agree that she needs to apologize at "an appropriate time."

During a meeting with senior secretaries last week, Park expressed her condolences to the family members of the victims of the disaster, but did not apologize. Instead, she lambasted the behavior of the crew as "tantamount to murder" and slammed botched rescue efforts and lapses committed by maritime authorities in ensuring passenger ships abided by safety regulations.

President Park Geun-hye listens to family members of ferry disaster victims at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Jeolla Province on April 17. President Park Geun-hye listens to family members of ferry disaster victims at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Jeolla Province on April 17.

Cheong Wa Dae officials said Park may apologize directly to the public, either at a press conference or in an address to the nation. Officials are also considering a visit by Park to a memorial altar for the victims and a meeting with the victim's families.

A Cheong Wa Dae official played down the delays, pointing out that Park visited the scene of the accident on April 17, a day after the sinking.

There are memorial altars in Ansan, where most of the passengers of the Sewol came from, as well as in Seoul and many other parts of the country.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, 172,000 people had stopped by the Ansan altar, which was temporary. An official memorial altar was set up in a public park in the city on Thursday morning.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 29, 2014 11:05 KST