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(CNN) -- South Korea's President apologized Monday for a ferry disaster that killed close to 300 people and said she would dismantle the country's coast guard.
"As the President who should be responsible for people's life and security, I am sincerely apologizing to the people for having to suffer pain," said President Park Geun-hye. "The final responsibility for not being able to respond properly lies on me."
The Sewol ferry sank en route to Jeju Island on April 16, killing 286 people and leaving 18 others still missing. Most of the passengers were students on a school field trip.
"As a President, I feel a sense of sorrow for not being able to protect them during their family trip," Park said.
She slammed the coast guard, saying it "failed in its duty to carry out the rescue operation."
"After serious consideration, I've decided to dismantle the coast guard. The investigation and information roles will be transferred to the police while the rescue and salvage operation and ocean security roles will be transferred to the department for national safety which will be newly established," the President said.
Between tears, she proposed building a monument to the victims and setting aside April 16 as a day to focus on safety.
"I, again, pray for those who passed away during the incident and express my deep condolence to the families," Park said.
The Sewol disaster caused widespread outrage in South Korea over lax safety standards and the failure to rescue more people as the ship foundered.
A chief prosecutor announced last week that the captain and three other crew members have been charged with murder. The remaining 11 crew members have been indicted on charges of abandonment and violating a ship safety act.
Investigators are looking at the overloading, the failure to secure cargo properly, the imbalance of weight on the ferry and a sudden turn on the ferry as possible reasons for the Sewol's sinking.