SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s prime minister offered his resignation Sunday to take responsibility for criticism over the government’s response to the sinking of a ferry that killed nearly 300 people.
“The right thing for me to do is to take responsibility and resign,” Chung Hong-won said 11 days after one of the nation’s worst maritime disasters.
The ferry sank April 16 en route to the southern resort island of Jeju from Incheon, west of Seoul.
More than 180 people have been confirmed dead so far, most of them teenaged students who were on a field trip. More than 110 others are still missing.
All 15 senior crew members including the captain have been charged with negligence. They are accused of failing to help passengers escape to safety when the ferry sank two hours after issuing a distress call.
Divers were still working at the wreck site on the weekend. The number of bodies recovered rose to 187 Saturday, but efforts to find the 115 people still missing were made difficult by strong currents and poor visibility.
Emergency crews said they believe most of the dead were trapped in the ship’s cabins. Fears that some bodies might have floated free of the wreck prompted authorities to deploy more ships and expand the search area to a radius of 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the accident site, broadcaster KBS reported.
The Sewol ferry was carrying 476 people when it tipped on its side and sank off the southwestern coast. The cause remains unknown. The number of rescued stood at 174.