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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid