South Korea ferry disaster: Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigns over 'deep-rooted evils' that caused hundreds of deaths

PM Chung Hong-won apologises for handling of situation as 115 passengers still missing

The South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has resigned over the government’s response to the ferry disaster, in which more than 300 people have died or are missing presumed dead.

The South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has resigned over the government’s response to the ferry disaster, in which more than 300 people have died or are missing presumed dead.

Mr Chung apologised on behalf of the government for “many problems from the prevention of the accident to the early handling” of the disaster.

He said: “Through this accident I have bitterly felt that there have been so many varieties of irregularities that have continued in every corner of our society and practices that have gone wrong.

“I hope these deep-rooted evils get corrected this time and that this kind of accident never happens again,” he said.

There are still 115 passengers yet to be found while the death toll stands at 187 after the Sewol ferry sank on 16 April.

The ferry was taking a routine trip from the port of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju, with a total of 476 people on board, the majority of which were students and teachers.

 

Diving crews yesterday found a group of 48 bodies wearing lifejackets crammed into a single large room built to accommodate 38 people.  

On Saturday it was revealed that all the crew members involved in the navigation of the Sewol ferry have now been detained as part of the investigation into the disaster. The four people held yesterday takes the total number of crew members in custody to 15, accused of negligence and of failing to help passengers in need.

The Prime Minister’s resignation has been accepted and approved by South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, though her spokesperson said Mr Chung would remain in his position until the rescue operation has been completed.

The government has repeatedly faced criticism for its handling of the rescue operation, which has seen some bodies misidentified and reports of bodies going to the wrong families. The government has announced changes to prevent such mistakes happening again, with DNA testing, finger print matches or dental records now being used to identify people before being transferred to families.

Mr Chung was booed by the families he visited the day after the disaster and one person threw a bottle at him.

There are 93 divers expected to take place in today’s rescue operation, though a coastguard spokesman has warned that heavy seas and strong winds are complicating efforts to recover more bodies.

The spokesman said: “The situation is very difficult due to the weather, but we are continuing search efforts, using the occasional calmer periods.”

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