Prime Minister Chung Hong-won made a visit to a gymnasium in Jindo to console the families of victims of the sunken ferry in the early hours of Thursday, only to be attacked by angry parents.
Parents of the students onboard the Sewol ferry shouted, threw objects, and pulled clothes from the prime minister.
Chung made the visit to the gymnasium in South Jeolla Province, just hours after returning from overseas tours to China and Pakistan. Family and friends of those who went missing in the sinking are waiting in the gymnasium for news of their loved ones.
The prime minister said it was regrettable and painful that such an accident could take place in Korea. Chung said he would do all he could to help the victims.
One parent shouted, "What is the use of the prime minister being here?"
Another parent shouted, "There is news that students are still alive in the ferry."
Chung apologised repeatedly and tried to leave the gymnasium, as tension escalated, but dozens of parents blocked his way and surrounded him.
Some family members threw water bottles and empty cans at the prime minister.
On Wednesday, around 250 parents staged a protest at Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, demanding a list of passengers who had been rescued after conflicting news reports about the survivors.
Some of the parents boarded a ship and set out to the accident site near Jindo Island around 9 am Thursday morning.