President Park Geun-hye arrived at the site of search-and-rescue operations, off the coast of Jindo on Thursday afternoon.
The visit comes a day after the Sewol ferry sank 20 kilometers off Byungpoong-do Island.
Upon her arrival at the nearby port, Korea's head of state inspected the area and was briefed on the ongoing rescue efforts carried out by the military and coast guard.
She said she was very concerned that the rescue efforts were slow, even though so many personnel and equipment were being mobilized.
Park told officials that every minute was critical and that safety of the rescue workers was also a priority.
Park later visited the indoor gymnasium, where the families of those missing are gathered, taking questions and offering words of support.
"These must be incredibly difficult times as you are going through such painful and agonizing moments, and therefore you deserve to know. We will inform you of every detail and every development in the field. An investigation will be thoroughly undertaken and those responsible will be punished."
Many angry family members shouted and screamed as Park spoke, demanding answers and venting their frustration over the lack of progress to save their loved ones.
Some even attempted to rush the front of the informal debriefing.
Others expressed doubt that the government was doing its best to handle the situation and complained of the lack of updates.
"In order uphold your trust in us, we will do everything in our power [with the search efforts]. We will do our best to ensure every last person is rescued."
Park promised the families that they would be immediately informed about any developments, as well as the next steps in the rescue operation, including the arrival of three industrial cranes on Friday, which will be used to try and lift the ship.
She told the families that while bad weather conditions are hampering the search, they should not lose hope.
Paul Yi, Arirang News.