World

South Korea launches new safety agency after criticism over handling of April ferry disaster

  • A government official walks by a signboard of newly created Ministry of Public Safety and Security at government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. South Korea's President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday nominated a retired navy general as head of the new broader safety agency to be created in the aftermath of April's ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

    A government official walks by a signboard of newly created Ministry of Public Safety and Security at government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. South Korea's President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday nominated a retired navy general as head of the new broader safety agency to be created in the aftermath of April's ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)  (The Associated Press)

  • South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won delivers a speech during an inauguration ceremony of the newly created Ministry of Public Safety and Security at government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. South Korea's President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday nominated a retired navy general as head of the new broader safety agency to be created in the aftermath of April's ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

    South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won delivers a speech during an inauguration ceremony of the newly created Ministry of Public Safety and Security at government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. South Korea's President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday nominated a retired navy general as head of the new broader safety agency to be created in the aftermath of April's ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)  (The Associated Press)

  • South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, right, applauds with government officials during an inauguration ceremony of the newly created Ministry of Public Safety and Security at government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. South Korea's President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday nominated a retired navy general as head of the new broader safety agency to be created in the aftermath of April's ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

    South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, right, applauds with government officials during an inauguration ceremony of the newly created Ministry of Public Safety and Security at government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. South Korea's President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday nominated a retired navy general as head of the new broader safety agency to be created in the aftermath of April's ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)  (The Associated Press)

South Korea has formally launched a new massive safety agency aimed at preventing disasters like April's ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Security began its operations Wednesday under broader government restructuring plans that center on disbanding the coast guard and splitting its responsibilities to the new ministry and the national police agency.

The coast guard has been under fierce public criticism for what authorities say was its slow, unprofessional rescue operations on the day of the sinking.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won said in an inauguration ceremony that the safety ministry should quickly establish a comprehensive, effective disaster response system.

The safety ministry has also taken over the national disaster office and incorporated some duties of the security and public administration ministry.