News / Asia

S. Korea President Accepts PM's Resignation

FILE - South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, October 2013.
FILE - South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, October 2013.
Daniel Schearf
South Korean President Geun-hye's office says she will accept her prime minister's resignation, but not until the Sewol ferry disaster has been brought under control.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won offered his resignation earlier Sunday, following a public uproar over his government's response to the April 16 ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

A somber-looking Chung announced his resignation in a brief televised address Sunday morning, saying "keeping my post is too great a burden on the administration."  The prime minister's position in South Korea is largely ceremonial, with the president wielding most of the power.
 
A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol is consoled by a Buddhist nun, left, as she waits for news on her missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Apr. 26, 2014.A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol is consoled by a Buddhist nun, left, as she waits for news on her missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Apr. 26, 2014.
x
A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol is consoled by a Buddhist nun, left, as she waits for news on her missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Apr. 26, 2014.
A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol is consoled by a Buddhist nun, left, as she waits for news on her missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Apr. 26, 2014.
Chung said he would like to offer an apology to the people as a representative of their government. He said the government could not solve many problems that occurred in the process of preventing the incident, the initial response, and in controls afterwards.

12 days since sinking

The 5-story ship, the Sewol, capsized on April 16th southwest of mainland South Korea with 476 people on board and quickly sank.

Most were teenagers on a trip organized by their high school, just south of Seoul, to the resort island of Jeju.

Authorities were severely criticized for what many saw as a slow and poorly coordinated initial response to the disaster.

Inaccurate information on the numbers of rescued, passengers and missing made matters worse for already distraught parents.

Education authorities initially indicated most of those on board the sinking ship were rescued before corrections revealed the scale of the loss.

Hundreds of rescue divers were deployed but were hampered by weather, strong currents and poor visibility. Relatives of those on board, hoping for survivors, watched helplessly as it took days to get divers inside the sunken ship.

Bodies were still slowly being recovered more than a week later as bad weather continued to plague recovery efforts.

PM accepts blame

Prime Minister Chung, along with the Coast Guard chief, was in charge of the rescue operation. He says his resignation would be a sensible way to offer the people of South Korea an apology.

He said he should be responsible as a prime minister. He saw the pain of the families of victims who writhed in agony from losing their loved ones and the sorrow and anger of their people.

During separate visits to a gym on Jindo island housing the relatives, angry parents pounced on the prime minister and heckled the president.

Opposition politicians criticized the prime minister's offer to resign as irresponsible and demanded President Park be the one to apologize.

But most of South Korea's outrage is directed at the captain and crew in charge of steering the ship. They have been arrested and charged with negligence and violating maritime law for telling passengers to stay put and then later saving themselves.

It is still not clear what caused the ferry to sink. Investigators are looking into many possibilities including an alleged sharp turn, design or repair flaws, or overweight cargo.

Prime Minister Chung last week announced plans for a safety overhaul to prevent similar disasters.

He is not the only official to take a fall from the ferry disaster.

A Coast Guard official was removed from duty for remarks deemed insensitive to relatives of victims. Another official was fired for taking photos of worried relatives.

Resignations by prime ministers are not uncommon in South Korea. The mainly ceremonial nature of the post makes it convenient for prime ministers to take the blame during political crises.

The last prime minister to resign was Chung Un-chan under the previous president Lee Myung-bak. He twice in 2010 offered to step down for the party's defeat in regional elections and a then again for failing to stop an administrative relocation to a town south of Seoul.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid