South Korean PM resigns over ferry disaster

2014-04-27 19:09
South Korean rescue teams take part in recovery operations at the site of the sunken 'Sewol' ferry, marked with buoys, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo. (Jung Yeon-Je, AFP)

South Korean rescue teams take part in recovery operations at the site of the sunken 'Sewol' ferry, marked with buoys, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo. (Jung Yeon-Je, AFP)

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Seoul - South Korea's prime minister resigned on Sunday, blaming corruption and "deep-rooted evil" for the sinking of a passenger ferry that left 300 people dead or missing, as anger grows over the bungled response to the tragedy.

Chung Hong-Won admitted he had not been up to the task of overseeing rescue operations after the Sewol capsized with 476 people - many of them schoolchildren - on board.

"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."

Parents and relatives of the missing and the dead have blasted the response to the sinking, saying delays in launching the rescue had cost lives.

There has also been rage over perceived corruption and lax safety standards that may have led to the disaster, with claims that the ferry was overloaded and that the passenger list was inaccurate and incomplete.

"Looking at the latest accident I came to a painful realisation that there is too much deep-rooted evil and corruption in our society," Chung said.

The role of prime minister is largely ceremonial in South Korea, with the lion's share of executive power vested in the presidency of Park Geun-Hye.

Park has decided to accept Chung's resignation but only after the government finishes the entire rescue and salvage operation, her spokesman said.

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