South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong Won said he offered to resign over the government\’s failure to properly handle a ferry sinking that may be the nation\’s worst maritime disaster in four decades.
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.
A somber-looking Chung announced his resignation in a brief televised address Sunday morning, after bowing to a group of South Korean reporters. He said "keeping my post is too great a burden on the administration."
In a statement, a sombre Chung said the "cries of the families of those missing still keep me up at night".
"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 ferry with 476 people on board – most of them students and teachers – sank off South Korea on 16 April.
Officials have confirmed 187 died, but scores are missing presumed drowned.
The 6,800-ton ferry Sewol was carrying hundreds of students and teachers on a field trip to the southwest island of Jeju, when it capsized and sunk.
The disaster shocked and angered South Korea, with widespread criticism directed at the ship\’s crew for abandoning the vessel before an evacuation was fully under way.
In his resignation announcement, the prime minister said he wanted to quit earlier but that overseeing rescue and recovery efforts were the first priorities, and that he wanted to help before leaving office.
On Friday, divers found 48 bodies of students wearing lifejackets in a single room on the vessel meant to accommodate just over 30 people. The group was crammed into a dormitory and all were wearing lifejackets, a South Korean Navy officer said.
The reason for the disaster is still unclear.