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S. Korea prime minister announces resignation over ferry disaster


South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong Won announced his resignation Sunday to take responsibility for the government's much-criticized response to the sinking of a ferry on April 16 that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

President Park Geun Hye will decide whether to accept Chung's resignation after giving the matter "very careful thought," a presidential spokesman said.

There has been a firestorm of criticism from the South Korean public and media as authorities repeatedly changed the number of survivors and missing people while relatives were furious about what they felt were slow government rescue operations.

In a hastily called news conference, Chung acknowledged that the government "was not doing a proper job" either in implementing safety measures or in coping with the aftermath of the country's worst maritime disaster in peacetime.

"Looking at the suffering of the relatives of the victims and the anger of the public, I think I should bear the sole responsibility as prime minister," Chung said and bowed in apology.

The 6,825-ton Sewol ferry with 476 people onboard -- most of them students and teachers on a school excursion -- sank off the country's southwestern coast on April 26, leaving 181 people dead and 131 missing and presumed dead.

Chung, a former public prosecutor, took office in February last year as the first prime minister under President Park.