Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition camps lobbed criticism at officials during a government report, saying their mismanagement of the accident led to its disastrous outcome.
Jin Sun-mee of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy revealed details of a phone conversation between emergency operators and the Coast Guard in the early moments of the crisis.
In it, the head of the emergency operator repeatedly asks the Coast Guard to bring the rescued to an area where high-level officials were standing by, instead of an island closer to the accident site.
"It's clear their priority was not rescuing the missing passengers, but showing high-level officials those who were already rescued."
In response to the accusations, the National Emergency Management Agency, in a written statement said the request to send survivors elsewhere was made to speed up the medical treatment.
Influential figures within the ruling Saenuri Party were also highly critical of the government.
Accusing the government of being corrupt and lax, Lawmaker Lee Jae-oh asked why it took officials an hour to first report the accident to the president.
Lawmaker Suh Chung-won said Security Minister Kang Byung-kyu lacks crisis management abilities and should step down immediately.
"This incident has put the nation in great shock and despair. To prevent a repeat of such an incident we need to introduce a new law. No one in Korea will trust preventive measures put forth by public officials like you."
Suh added he would introduce a bill this week that calls for a probe into the causes of the ferry disaster, compensation for the victims and their families, punishment of those found responsible and a reform plan to bolster national emergency response.
Choi You-sun, Arirang News.