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(LEAD) PM offers to resign over failed policies

All Headlines 15:51 July 29, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with more quotes, background; ADDS byline)
By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Chung Un-chan offered to resign Thursday, holding himself responsible for the government's failure last month to get parliamentary approval for a bill to scrap a new administrative town project south of Seoul.

"I am now stepping down from the post of prime minister, taking all responsibility and fault," Chung Un-chan said in a nationally televised press conference.

Chung, who took office 10 months ago after serving as a university president, has been a top supporter of President Lee Myung-bak's push to revise the previous government's plan to relocate half of the government's ministries to the new administrative town of Sejong, which is under construction in central South Korea.

The outgoing prime minister said he felt "responsible" for failing to block the relocation of government ministries that might waste national power and trigger administrative confusion.

Chung was in charge of drawing the revision plan aimed at turning Sejong into an education, science and business hub and the government's efforts to get it passed at the National Assembly.

The ruling party-dominated National Assembly, however, voted down the alternative plan that was unpopular even among many members of the controlling contingent.

Chung's previous offers of resignation to take responsibility for the Sejong failure were not accepted by the president.

This latest offer, however, came as a surprise as it came after the ruling Grand National Party's (GNP) win in parliamentary by-elections Wednesday, a result expected to boost President Lee's policy initiatives in the remainder of his five-year term that ends in early 2013.

GNP candidates swept five of the eight parliamentary seats contested in the by-elections, recovering from a humiliating defeat in last month's local elections, while the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) won three.

"With the conclusion of major political events, the president got a chance to make a fresh start of the latter half of his term," Chung said in the news conference.

"I, therefore, judged that it was my last chance to resign as a responsible civil servant of the state."

Chung's move may speed up the process of a widely anticipated Cabinet reshuffle.

Lee is planning to go on a weeklong vacation on Sunday, and the Cabinet shakeup that would affect several ministers is expected in the second week of August.


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