Korean Prime Minister Chung-Hung won took full responsibility for the South Korean government's slow response to the sinking ferry disaster and resigned, according to ABC News on Sunday. Chung offered to resign shortly after seeing the grieving families first hand and observing their intense grief and anger.
Although the job of Prime Minister in South Korea largely is ceremonial in nature, Chung nevertheless took full responsibility for the way in which the government mishandled the disaster and responded so slowly. Although the brunt of executive power in South Korea government rests with the President, there has been no assumption of responsibility for the government's mishandling of the disaster from President Park Geun-hye; although the President has indicated that she will accept Chung's resignation.
Chung's resignation was offered amid the ever-rising clamor over the government's mishandling of the ferry incident by relatives of the victims, including forty-eight girls who all crammed into a room to await a rescue that never happened. Instead of rescuing passengers, Captain Lee Joon-seok saw to it that he and his crew were rescued. Lee and his crew left the stranded passengers to fend for themselves.
Ironically, Captain Lee was described by fellow sea enthusiasts as "the nicest guy on the ship." One such enthusiast, fifty-seven year old helmsman Oh Yong-seok stated:
"He (Lee) was generous, a really nice guy. He was probably the nicest person on the ship."
Oh Yong went on to describe how Lee always asked about his wife and kids and offered both personal and professional advice on a regular basis. Lee and fourteen of his crew members now stand charged with negligence, and deserting people in need. However, when being paraded before reporters on Saturday wearing a hooded windbreaker to hide his face, Lee claimed that the reason that he delayed the rescue was to avoid sending the stranded passengers out to "cold waters and fast currents" before rescuers arrived. Lee offered no explanation for allowing himself to be rescued while passengers still remained trapped and stranded on the ferry, including the forty-eight girls trapped in a room, none of whom survived.
Ironically, when appearing on a 2010 travel show and discussing sailing with him on another ship that took the same route as the stranded ferry, Lee heralded the safety of sailing with him:
"For those who are using our Incheon-to-Jeju ferry, I can tell you that the next time you return, it will be a safe and pleasant experience. If you follow the instructions of our crew members, it will be safer than any other means of transportation."
As for Chung, he is hoping that no such disaster ever happens again:
"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."
Of the 476 people on the ship, 114 are still missing, 188 are confirmed dead (bodies recovered) and 174 survived, including 22 of 29 crew members. This leaves 302 people either confirmed dead or missing.
The ferry was transporting high school students, and their vice-principal, Kang Min-gyu who was one of the first people rescued. Kang's body was found hanging from a tree outside a gym where the surviving families were staying, most likely the result of a suicide.