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Korean PM resigns, takes blame for 'deep-seated evils'

The sinking of Korean ferry Sewol has claimed its first political victim with the resignation of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won.

Mr Chung’s position is largely titular – real power is wielded by President Park Geun-hye – but the move reflects public outrage at the government's handling of the tragedy.

More than 300 mainly high school pupils are dead or missing as Mr Chung admitted "deep-rooted evils" in society were responsible for the tragedy.

Officials have taken into custody all 15 people involved in navigating the ferry Sewol, which sank on April 16. A prosecutor has revealed investigators are also looking into communications made as the ship sank between a crew member and the company that owns the ferry.

Mr Chung was heckled by victims' relatives and his car was blocked when he visited a shelter on an island near the site of the sinking. Yesterday, he gave his reasoning for the resignation to reporters in Seoul.

"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," he 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."

More crew arrested
Meanwhile, senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin says two helmsmen and two members of the steering crew who were detained on Saturday have been formally arrested. Eleven other crew members, including the captain, were arrested earlier.

Mr Yang also said that a crew member called the ship's owner, Chonghaejin Marine Co, as the ferry was listing, but declined to disclose whether the caller was the captain.

Local media have reported that the captain called for company approval of an evacuation. Prosecutors said they were analysing the content of communications between the ship and the company.

The arrested crew members are accused of negligence and of failing to help passengers in need. Captain Lee Joon-seok initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and took half an hour to issue an evacuation order, by which time the ship was tilting too severely for many people to get out.

Divers have recovered 188 bodies and 114 people are believed to be missing, though the government-wide emergency task force has said the ship's passengers list could be inaccurate. Only 174 people survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members.