South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Monday apologised to the nation over the deadly Seoul crowd crush, calling for a sweeping overhaul of the police accused of bungling the response and promising to punish those responsible.
Yoon made the remark during a meeting held to review crowd control and other safety regulations in the wake of the tragedy that killed 156 people on October 29, reports Yonhap News Agency.
“In order to respond effectively to various dangers in our society, we must carry out a general institutional review of authority and responsibility in safety management, and of a rapid reporting system,” he said, amid criticism that the police and local government authorities were neither informed nor present at the scene in a timely manner.
“We need major innovations in the way police prepare against risks and prevent accidents in order to protect the people’s safety.
“I will make sure the truth is thoroughly determined regarding this tragedy and disclose the process to the public in a transparent manner that leaves not a trace of doubt,” the President added.
Yoon did not mention how he will uncover the truth, but the police have been conducting an internal inspection and investigation into what went wrong in its handling of the disaster.
“In line with the results, I will strictly demand accountability from those responsible,” he said.
In his first formal apology to the nation over the tragedy, he said: “I dare not compare myself to the parents who lost their sons and daughters, but as the President who should protect the people’s lives and safety, I grieve and my heart is heavy.
“I am apologetic and sorry to the bereaved families who are facing an indescribable tragedy and to the nation that is sharing in the pain and sadness.”
Yoon renewed his call on the government to handle the aftermath of the tragedy in a responsible manner, and to improve existing anti-disaster and safety regulations to make the nation safer.
On Sunday, the President and first lady Kim Keon-hee attended a memorial mass held at the Myeongdong Cathedral.
It was Yoon’s third attendance in a religious service honouring the victims, following a Buddhist memorial service at the Joggye Temple in central Seoul on November 5 and a church service organised by the United Christian Churches of Korea the next day.