By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol apologized to the nation Monday for the deadly Itaewon crowd crush, saying he will ensure a thorough investigation into the tragedy and hold those responsible to account.
Yoon issued the apology during a meeting held to review crowd control and other safety regulations in the wake of the tragedy that killed 156 people on Oct. 29.
"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," he said. "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."
The remark was seen as his first formal apology to the nation, though he previously apologized in remarks during Buddhist and Christian memorial services.
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.
"In particular, in order to protect the people's safety, we need major innovations in the way police prepare against risks and prevent accidents," he said. "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."
Yoon did not mention how he will uncover the truth, though 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.
Monday's meeting brought together the prime minister, finance minister, interior minister, other Cabinet members, and civilian experts on disaster and safety issues, as well as front-line police and firefighting officials, and the ruling People Power Party's chief policymaker.
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