South Korean prime minister resigns over ferry sinking

"I offer my apology for having been unable to prevent this accident from happening," says PM Chung Hong-Won

Afp April 27, 2014
A television screen shows an image of South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won at Jindo harbour where relatives of family members of the 'Sewol' ferry are waiting for delvelopments in the search and recovery operations, on April 27, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL:  South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won tendered his resignation Sunday over the sinking of a passenger ferry that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

"I offer my apology for having been unable to prevent this accident from happening and unable to properly respond to it afterwards," he said.

"I believed I, as the prime minister, certainly had to take responsibility and resign."

The Sewol, a large passenger ferry, capsized with 476 people -- many of them schoolchildren -- on board when it was en route to the southern resort island of Jeju on April 16.

The confirmed death toll from the tragedy stood Sunday at 187, with 115 unaccounted for.

The government, along with almost all other branches of officialdom, has come in for fierce criticism over the disaster, and the handling of the rescue operation.

"The latest accident left all South Koreans in great shock and sorrow. (Many) days have passed since the accident, but the screams of families of the missing still keep me up at night," Chung told a nationally-televised press conference.

"Dear South Koreans, this is no time to point fingers at each other but a time to complete rescue operations and properly handle its aftermath. I plead with you to help overcome this difficult situation.

"I sincerely hope that South Koreans and families of the Sewol victims will forgive and understand me for being unable to fulfil my obligations until the end. I beg you once again to rally support (for rescue operations)."

Although all hope of finding survivors has been extinguished, there is still anger and deep frustration among relatives of the missing over the pace of the recovery operation.

All 15 surviving crew members responsible for sailing the vessel are now in custody and face charges ranging from criminal negligence to abandoning passengers.

The official probe has focused on a long delay by the ship's captain in issuing the evacuation order, as well as on the ferry's overloaded cargo and possible inaccuracies in the passenger headcount.

Prosecutors have raided a host of businesses affiliated with the ferry operator, the Chonghaejin Marine Company, as part of an overall probe into corrupt management.

The widening investigation has also seen travel bans put on eight current and former executives of the Korea Register of Shipping -- the body responsible for issuing marine safety certificates.

"I wanted to resign earlier but handling the situation was the first priority and I thought that it was a responsible act to help before leaving," said Chung.

"But I've decided to resign now not to be any burden on the administration," he said.


Aam Aadmi | 7 years ago | Reply

The respect culture could not flourish in Pakistan even the self-serving holy cows are no exception! Thousands of Pakistanis were massacred but it did not bother almighty dictator Musharraf and he kept on sticking with the Presidency. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated and not even a constable was suspended. PNS Mehran was attacked and most expensive PC3 Orion was destroyed but then Naval Chief Admiral Nauman Bashir didn't resign but dared to ride on luxury BMW on taxpayers money. PAF Base Kamra was attacked but the Air Chief didn't bother to resign. Even GHQ was attacked in highly fortressed city of Rawalpindi but nobody resigned, not even the low ranking security guards. Our politicians are not holy in Pakistan and are already open to public criticism. Therefore, there is not much to be said about them.

Nida Alvi | 7 years ago | Reply

@Muslim Leaguer: That's why Sheikh Rasheed is not taken seriously in Pakistan. Even the Canadian government has declined his request for visit. He has been enjoying Ministership for 10 years under different governments and every time he dumped his recent mentor. He can appear only on low-rated channels. "You can't fool all the people all the time" -- Abraham Lincoln

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