President Park Geun-hye delivered a televised apology on Monday morning over the ferry disaster last month before heading off to the United Arab Emirates.
The apology comes 33 days after the tragic sinking of the ferry Sewol. Saenuri Party officials are concerned about the impact it may have on the local elections on June 4 if it fails to allay public discontent over the botched handling of the rescue.
Park vowed to overhaul the country's emergency management system and reshuffle her government.
In the UAE she is to attend a ceremony marking the completion of the first reactor built by a Korean consortium abroad. She had originally planned to visit the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from May 17 to 25, but the trip was delayed and limited to the UAE due to the ferry tragedy.