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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid