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PM offers to resign over ferry

South Korea's prime minister offered to resign Sunday over the government's handling of a deadly ferry sinking, blaming "deep-rooted evils" and societal irregularities for a tragedy that has left more than 300 people dead or missing and led to widespread shame, fury and finger-pointing.

The resignation offer comes amid rising indignation over claims by the victims' relatives that the government didn't do enough to rescue or to protect their loved ones. Most of the missing and dead were high school students on a school trip. Officials have taken into custody all 15 people involved in navigating the ferry that sank April 16, a prosecutor said.

South Korean executive power is largely concentrated in the president, Park Geun-hye, so the resignation offer by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won appears to be largely symbolic. There was no immediate word from Park about whether she would accept Chung's resignation.

Chung was heckled by relatives and his car was blocked when he visited a shelter on an island near the site of the sinking a week ago. On Sunday, he issued an extraordinary statement to reporters in Seoul on the national tragedy.

"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. "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."

Meanwhile, Yang Jung-jin of the joint investigation team said two helmsmen and two members of the steering crew were taken in on preliminary arrest warrants issued late Friday. Formal arrest warrants were issued Saturday night. Eleven other crew members, including the captain, had been formally arrested earlier.

The Canadian Press

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