(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won Sunday in the wake of the April 16 ferry disaster that left 187 people dead and 115 others still missing.
Chung will not formally step down until the recovery operations are completed.
The sinking of the Sewol, which had 475 people on board, has brought great shame to South Korea, especially in light of the reports of lax safety measures and regulatory enforcement that are believed to have led to the ferry inexplicably tilting and capsizing.
Many have also been highly critical of the government’s initial response to the rescue operation and the ensuing confusion that resulted.
Most of the victims on the Sewol were high school students on a field trip. Meanwhile, all 15 members of the crew, including the captain, managed to escape the ferry. Many are facing criminal charges.
Chung’s role as prime minister is largely ceremonial. Nonetheless, he’s considered the number two South Korean official and chances are good that other heads will roll as investigators delve further into the causes of the disaster, the nation’s worst since 500 people died in the 1995 collapse of a department store in Seoul.
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Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN
Ralph Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN