South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned on Sunday amid public outrage over the handling of the ferry disaster, which has left 188 dead and 114 missing so far.
Chung apologized, offered his resignation and said he takes “all responsibility” for the Sewol’s sinking on Sunday, local time. His resignation is mostly symbolic, however, since executive power in South Korea is mostly concentrated in President Park Geun-hye, according to the Associated Press.
A presidential spokesperson said Park accepted the resignation, but asked Chung to stay in his post until the recovery effort is completed, according to the New York Times.
“As I saw grieving families suffering with the pain of losing their loved ones and the sadness and resentment of the public, I thought I should take all responsibility as prime minister,” Chung said during a press conference, according to the AP. “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 this kind of accident never happens again.”
South Korean prime ministers are often fired when the government takes responsibility for major disasters, The Times reported.
The Sewol sunk on April 16, and only 174 people out of the 476 on board have been rescued so far, including 22 of the 29 crew members. The majority of the ferry passengers were students and teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, a city near Seoul.
Fifteen crew members involved in navigating the ferry were taken into custody on Saturday; they are accused of negligence, and failing to help passengers in need. Last week, Park condemned the actions of the Sewol’s captain and some of its crew, saying they amounted to “murder”.