President’s tears trigger emotional reaction

May 19, 2014
President Park Geun-hye sheds tears towards the end of her televised speech from Cheong Wa Dae, Monday, while naming those who performed heroic acts in the April 16 Sewol ferry sinking.  (Korea Times)

President Park Geun-hye sheds tears towards the end of her televised speech from Cheong Wa Dae, Monday, while naming those who performed heroic acts in the April 16 Sewol ferry sinking. (Yonhap)

By Kang Seung-woo

President Park Geun-hye shed tears at the end of her long-awaited national address over the tragic Sewol ferry sinking.

The 24-minute address came 34 days after the April 16 disaster; a tragedy that has put the nation in a somber mood with more than 300 passengers dead or missing.

Park wrapped up her speech by naming the dead passengers and crew members who sacrificed their lives to save others aboard the vessel. The emotional president broke down in tears, while recounting their good deeds.

Along with the government’s botched response to the accident, the president had also been criticized for not shedding tears during her visits to the bereaved families on Jindo Island. Critics said that Park seemed to be largely out of touch with the national emotion.

After saying she found some hope in the nation through their heroic acts, tears ran down her cheeks.

She then prayed for the souls of the deceased and consoled the bereaved families before exiting the press room without taking questions.

Park, dressed in a formal gray suit, stepped onto the podium after bowing, to read her address which included among other things disbanding the nation’s Coast Guard and reforming the state’s bureaucracy.

She bowed once again after saying, “As the president who is required to protect the lives and safety of the people, I apologize for the pain the people have suffered.”

Park said she took ultimate responsibility for the government’s clumsy response to the sinking and paused for a few seconds.

During the speech, she raised her voice when touching on reforming the entrenched public sector as well as unveiling an upgraded safety system, but the visibly shaken president seemed to be battling grief.

In the briefing room, Park was not accompanied by her senior secretaries or Cabinet members unlike her New Year’s press conference or one marking the first anniversary of her inauguration.

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