Moon made the remarks during a ceremony marking the 64th anniversary of the establishment of the Coast Guard, formerly known as the Maritime Police Agency, saying the agency should take the sinking of the ferry Sewol as an "eternal lesson" and carry out deep reforms.
|President Moon Jae-in delivers an address during a Coast Guard anniversary ceremony in Incheon on Sept. 13, 2017. (Yonhap)|
At the time of the disaster, the Coast Guard came under intense fire for bungling its initial response as the massive ferry carrying a total of 467 people sank off the south coast, leaving 299 dead and five others missing.
Public anger was so great that former President Park Geun-hye even dismantled the Coast Guard, giving its duties to other ministries and agencies. The Coast Guard got its name and status back in July after Moon took office.
"Three years ago, the Coast Guard suffered the pain of organizational dismantling because of the disappointing attitude it showed during the Sewol disaster," Moon said. "People gave it a second chance. It should be reborn as an agency thinking only about the lives and safety of the people."
Moon said the agency should look thoroughly into what went wrong during the disaster so as to identify problems and find fundamental solutions.
"Through these efforts," he said, "I believe and anticipate the Coast Guard will stand tall as a reliable agency charged with preventing all disasters that happen at sea and rescuing people effectively."
After the ceremony, Moon traveled back to the presidential office by car instead of by helicopter in order to avoid making noise while middle school students were taking an English-language listening test, officials said.
Middle school second-graders took the test that lasted for about 30 minutes from 11 a.m., listening to broadcasts from the state-run educational radio station EBS, and Moon's return from the Coast Guard headquarters coincided with the test.
"We recommended traveling back by helicopter after 11:30 a.m, but the president said it would be better to travel by car so as not to cause any disturbance to students, just in case," a presidential official said.
Wednesday's test was one of two nationwide English listening tests administered each year for middle and high school students across the country, except Seoul. Tests for middle school students were set for this week while those for high school students are scheduled for next week.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff issue an order to minimize flights during such tests. (Yonhap)