Prime Minister Chung Hong-won of South Korea apologized and offered to resign his post. The April 27 announcement comes just ten days after a disaster in which the sinking of a ferry claimed the lives of 302 people, most of whom were high school students on vacation.
The South Korean government, in which Chung is the second-highest ranking official, has been battered by constant criticism since the disaster as citizens remained angry and saddened by the loss of life. The government has been criticized following investigations that showed that numerous safety measures and regulations had been dodged, thus contributing to the sinking of the 6835 ton ferry, known as the Sewol, which was taking its passengers to an island resort. Also, the government was criticized for a tardy response to the sinking, as well as fumbling its emergency operations.
President Park Geun-hye accepted Prime Minister Chung’s resignation, according to an announcement from her office. She said that Chung’s resignation will take effect once disaster recovery operations have ended. The premier's post is mostly ceremonial.
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won began his televised morning announcement with an expression of sorrow and anguish. "It has been more than 10 days since the sinking accident occurred, but the cries from the family members who still not have found their missing keep me from sleeping at night," he said.
"I bow my head and express my condolences to the victims' portraits of this accident. I apologize deeply to the bereaving families, and I pray for a quick recovery from the hurt of a slow recovery."
Chung apologized "on behalf of the government for the many problems that arose during the first response and the subsequent rescue operation" in addition to "problems that existed before the accident."
"During the search process, the government took inadequate measures and disappointed the public," Chung said. "I should take responsibility for everything as the prime minister, but the government can assume no more. So I will resign as prime minister."
Chung called for national unity. "This is not the time for blaming each other but for finishing the rescue operation and dealing with the accident," he said. "In order to get over these difficult times, I ask the citizens for help."
A search for bodies has continued since the disaster, while 188 bodies have so far been recovered, with another 114 still missing. Bad weather made for low visibility underwater as divers recovered a single corpse on April 27. On April 26, divers discovered the bodies of 48 girls – still wearing their life jackets – jammed into a room too small for so many people. It is believed that a similar room may harbor the bodies of 50 more girls trapped by the doomed ferry.
Investigators who examined the Ohamana ferry -- a sister ship of the ill-gated Sewol -- found on April 25 that 40 life rafts on board were inoperable. They also found that illegal modifications were made to the Ohamana; the investigators are seeking to determine if similar modifications on the Sewol may have contributed to the disaster.
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