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South Korean prime minister tenders resignation over Sewol ferry sinking

April 27, 2014, 6:18 UTC+3 SEOUL
Chung Hong-won holding himself responsible for the government’s poor response to the deadly sinking of the ferry
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© AP/Antti Aimo-Koivisto

SEOUL, April 27, /ITAR-TASS/. South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won offered his resignation Sunday, holding himself responsible for the government’s poor response to the deadly sinking of the Sewol ferry that has left nearly 300 people dead or missing, the Yonhap news agency reported.

“The right thing for me to do is to take responsibility and resign,” Chung told a news conference, 11 days after the accident that is one of the country's worst maritime disasters. On April 16, the 6,825-tonne Sewol sank on its way to the southern resort island of Jeju from Incheon, west of Seoul. Of 476 passengers aboard the ill-fated ferry, most of who were high school students on a field trip, 187 have been confirmed dead so far and 115 others are still unaccounted for.

The investigation, conducted by the prosecutor’s office and police, has revealed many violations in the activity of the ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine, which has turned out to be a monopolist on this ferry line. All the 15 crewmembers, including Sewol captain, are under investigation, most of them have been arrested.

The actions of the Coast Guard, Navy and other services have been strongly criticised by the relatives of those killed and missing in the tragedy. The relatives gathered on the Jindo Island where the government’s response headquarters are located.

According to Yonhap, families accuse the government of not having done enough or acted quickly to rescue the victims at the first signs of the vessel sinking, their ire deepening as the ship's crew, including the captain, were found to have been the first ones to flee. The government was wrong about the number of people aboard and how many had been rescued, disrupting rescue operation plans. Calling on rescue workers to “do their best to find the missing at the scene,” Chung urged the nation “to come together so that the situation can be properly concluded.” “I’ve learned bitterly that our society has many longstanding corruption and wrongful practices. I hope we can take this tragedy as a chance to resolve such problems to prevent a recurrence of this kind of accident.”

The ferry was built in 1994 in Japan and in 2012 was bought by the South Korean company. Immediately after that the vessel was redesigned - new cabins were added, which, in the view of experts, worsened the vessel’s floating stability.

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