President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday apologized for the government's handling of the ferry disaster off the southwest coast on April 16.
The president in a weekly Cabinet meeting said that she is so sorry for the people, and the feelings weigh heavily upon her because so many precious lives were lost.
"In order to address the pain and suffering of the families even for a moment, I don't know how to apologize for the government's failure to prevent the accident and bungling of its initial response and the management of its aftermath," she said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Park visited an official memorial altar set up in a public park in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, where most of the victims came from, to offer her condolence to the grieving families.
Park's apology came a long 14 days after the tragedy. She apparently also plans a public apology to the nation and present plans to revamp national safety management once the Sewol accident is dealt with.
Park also ordered officials to completely overhaul the way civil servants who handle responses to major accidents are hired, evaluated and rewarded.
The slow search-and-rescue operations and the bungled response of the government triggered public outrage and resulted in Prime Minister Chung Hong-won's resignation Sunday. But it appears that the government still faces heavy weather for waiting so long to set up a national disaster response center.