CNN…SEOUL, April 27, 2014. South Korea’s Prime Minister announced his resignation Sunday morning, taking responsibility for the slow initial response to a ferry’s sinking that has left nearly 200 dead with scores more still missing.
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won’s offer comes as the government faces increasing anger from relatives of victims that it didn’t do enough to rescue or protect their loved ones.
South Korean executive power is concentrated in the president, Park Geun-hye, so the offer appears to be largely symbolic. There was no immediate word from Park about whether she would accept the resignation.
Chung was heckled by relatives and his car was blocked when he visited a shelter on an island near the site of the sinking a week ago.
Prosecutors have arrested all 15 people involved in navigating the ferry that sank April 16.
Chung Hong-won began his announcement with a mournful prelude filled with personal anguish.
“It has been more than 10 days since the sinking accident occurred, but the cries from the family members who still not have found their missing keep me from sleeping at night,” he said “I bow my head and express my condolences to the victims’ portraits of this accident. I apologize deeply to the bereaving families, and I pray for a quick recovery from the hurt of a slow recovery.”
Prime Minister Chung outlined his decision on national television, after apologizing “on behalf of the government for the many problems that arose during the first response and the subsequent rescue operation” in addition to “problems that existed before the accident.”
“During the search process, the government took inadequate measures and disappointed the public,” Chung said. “I should take responsibility for everything as the prime minister, but the government can assume no more. So I will resign as prime minister.”
With his announcement, Chung urged his countrymen to stand united, rather than divided.