A co-vice chairman of an association of conservative Protestant churches stepped down on Friday after coming under fire for remarks about the victims of last month's deadly ferry sinking.
The Christian Council of Korea accepted the resignation of Rev. Cho Kwang-jak and publically apologized to the families of the victims.
The pastor drew strong public indignation for saying during a meeting of the council on Tuesday that he does not understand why the children from poor families chose to travel to the southern resort island of Jeju instead of going to a popular inland destination such as Mount Seorak on the east coast or Bulguk Temple in Gyeongju, an ancient city in the southeastern part of the country.
Cho also said he doesn't understand why people are making a fuss over the ferry sinking even though they silently mourned the deaths of 46 sailors in North Korea's attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan in 2010.
The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol, en route from the western port city of Incheon to Jeju Island, capsized and sank off the southwest coast on April 16. Of an estimated 476 people aboard, mostly high school students on a school trip, 172 people were rescued and 288 people have been confirmed dead.
His remarks drew flak from the public and other Christian groups.
"We cannot hide our regret that defamatory remarks toward the students killed in the ferry disaster came from the mouth of a Christian figure," an association of Protestant churches in Ansan said in a statement on Friday.
Located just south of Seoul, Ansan is home to the high school attended by the student victims.
"He should repent for his mistake of disgracing the entire Korean Christian church with his insulting remarks and have time to reflect on his behavior," the association said. (Yonhap)